They say that all children are angels in their mother’s eyes. According to a new report from The Guardian, that saying even holds true for Osama bin Laden. In an interview with the news outlet, his mother, Alia Ghanem, says that her deceased son was not a fighter. She insists that the man who was held responsible for the September 11 attacks was a “good boy.”
“My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me,” she says at one point during the interview. “He was a very good kid and he loved me so much.”
She does admit, however, that her oldest son was a man who lost his way.
The Guardian reports that they had to get special permission from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to interview Osama bin Laden’s relative. They are still one of the wealthiest and most powerful Saudi families, but Osama’s legacy has tainted their reputation.
Now they are speaking out about the man who became public enemy number one around the world after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.
During the interview, bin Laden’s mother says that he became radicalized during his time as a student at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders falsely blamed journalists for thwarting US spying on Osama bin Laden just years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks https://t.co/y6IN9SwzK7 pic.twitter.com/goixw1FHFL
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“The people at university changed him,” she adds. “He became a different man.”
She says that he hid the fact that he had joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical group that was led by the Abdullah Azzam, a man who was later banished from Saudi Arabia. She claims that she told him to stay away from the Brotherhood but that he didn’t listen to her.
Osama migrated to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviet occupation in that country. That’s what essentially turned him into the figure who would later coordinate terrorist attacks against the United States, says Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was head of Saudi intelligence for close to 25 years.
“There are two Osama bin Ladens,” he says. “One before the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and one after it.”
He goes on to add that before the end of the Soviet occupation, he was an idealist who fainted during battle.
Ghanem says that she was not happy when she found out that her son had become a jihadist and that she never thought that it would happen.
“We were extremely upset. I did not want any of this to happen. Why would he throw it all away like that?”
Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 after a U.S. Navy SEAL team descended on the Pakistani compound that he’d been hiding in. As the Independent reported at the time, former U.S. Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill claims to be the one who delivered the kill shot. He said that he shot bin Laden twice in the head while he held a woman as a human shield.
But the Washington Post reports that the Obama White House later refuted that version of the story. They later said that Osama bin Laden was unarmed during the assault and did not hide behind a woman before he was killed.