Clearing Up What Has Happened to Bin Laden’s Wives (Concubines?) and Children in the Aftermath of His Death
Today, there’s been backtracking on the more spectacular aspects how the world’s most hunted terrorist leader died, and especially what happened to the members of his family who accompanied him. They’re not coming to the United States, that’s for sure, or being detained by the CIA. It’s been really hard to separate and confirm facts from all sides, but I say give it time. Bin Laden’s life will have enough for about a thousand more books.
First of all, Osama bin Laden did not die shielding himself with the body of his youngest wife, who has yet to be officially named. In fact, John Brennan, President Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser, was in error when he outlined what he believed were the series of events that led to bin Laden’s death. It’s a toss-up where the truth lies between Brennan and the Defense Department.
Reading from a script carefully crafted by the Defense Department, [White House spokesperson Jay] Carney clarified that bin Laden was not armed with a gun when he was killed, contrary to some reports that he fired back at U.S. military operatives. In addition, White House counterinsurgency adviser John Brennan was wrong when he suggested Monday that one of bin Laden’s wives was killed serving as a human shield for bin Laden during gunfire.
“In the room with bin Laden, a woman — bin Laden’s wife — rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed,” Carney said. Separately, another woman on the first floor was killed in crossfire, which may have led to Brennan’s misstatement.
The White House spokesman wouldn’t say whether bin Laden had any kind of weapon when he was killed or what kind of resistance he put up. Carney said only, “There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and indeed he resisted.”
So, essentially, Osama bin Laden died fighting back.
There’s certainly a difference between hiding behind the skirts of a young, and supposedly favorite wife, and openly confronting those who are seeking your life, despite the fact that you have no weapon with which to defend yourself. Big difference. I know how Brennan’s story plays to the sensibilities of those Americans (and Europeans) to whom hating bin Laden, al Qaeda and Muslims are all of a piece, that Muslims are essentially cowards and subhumans. The real story carries no such resonance.
Don’t get me wrong. I claim no admiration for Osama bin Laden, but he did not appear to have raised his hands in surrender in order to save his own life. Even reaching for his cane or moving towards his captors in anger at the shooting of his wife could have been construed as resistance. I’m also reminded, unfortunately, how certain cops here often come up with a story that a suspect resisted arrest to justify a rub-out. And it was the lynching hour (the wee, wee hours of the morning before daybreak) when a rub-out would take place. I repeat, I think that bin Laden went down fighting against the SEALs.
There was said to be yet another witness to bin Laden’s bloody end. According to Reuters this morning (May 3), his 13-year-old daughter saw her father being killed. One report from Pakistan has her declaring that her father was taken captive and then shot by the SEALs. She may have been forced to help identify her father’s body for the SEALs. This child’s name, whom the Daily Telegraph has suggested is Safia bin Laden, is one of an estimated 12 to 24 children produced by bin Laden and up to five wives. He may have married a couple of these wives when they were about 14, 15, or 16, and he was way past the age of adulthood. While his first two wives were Syrian and Saudi, his last two wives are said to be Afghan and Yemeni, and they may be the ones who are in custody in Pakistan. Another story has it that three of his wives are now in Syria. It is reasonable to assume that at least among the younger wives, they were devoted to bin Laden.
The Syrian wife is alternately believed to have been a concubine, and she was also a cousin of his mother. The Afghan wife may be the daughter of Taliban spiritual chieftain Mullah Mohammad Omar who is also still on the run; one story during the Nineties had it that Mullah Omar and bin Laden sealed the alliance between al Qaeda and the Taliban with bin Laden marrying one of Omar’s young daughters. The London Evening Standard seems to confirm this possibility, and is giving a name for the Yemeni wife, and those of the two men, supposedly couriers, who were also killed. The paper believes that the two are bin Laden’s older and radical sons by the first wives. (Of those 12-24 children, a majority are males; he is thought to have produced six daughters.) Not all of his adult children, however, have followed in their father’s footsteps.
His youngest wife, Amal al-Sadeh, 27, with whom he reportedly had a number of children, was shot in the leg during yesterday’s attack. The al Qaeda chief’s beloved youngest son, Hamza, 18, and another son, 22-year-old Khalid, were also said to have been killed.
Hamza played an important propaganda role for al Qaeda and his father. Tory MP and security specialist Patrick Mercer nicknamed him the Crown Prince of Terror in 2008, and it is thought he was being lined up to replace his father as the head of the global terrorist organisation.
Two other sons, Mohammed and Ahmed, whose whereabouts are unknown, are reported to be key al Qaeda fighters. Mohammed was previously said to stand guard over his father while he slept and is thought to have been one of his most trusted officials.
Another of Bin Laden’s most militant sons, Sa’ad, is believed to have been killed in Pakistan in 2009 during a US drone attack.
Amal el-Sadeh is also known as Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah on her passport. At 15, Amal was given as a gift to the terrorist leader by her parents. (While some of you may be scandalized by this news, it is not shocking or unlikely in that part of the world when a leader of Bin Laden’s spiritual as well as political stature is given a girl by her parents to obtain a blessing from the Divine and to strengthen ties between groups and countries. Check your unreconstructed Mormons living in Arizona and Mexico.) Bin Laden’s daughter, two or three wives or concubines, and seven other children are currently in custody in Pakistan, are being interrogated, and according to law will be repatriated to their countries of origin. However, there is no information about how they are being treated.
I can only hope that the wives and children are being treated well and are safe, despite the fact that their surname is bin Laden. They are not mini-terrorists; they are survivors. They were not living in luxury; the house was not even worth a million dollars. But I don’t know; anything could happen to them, and I fear the worst for women and children left in such shocking circumstances, no matter who they are. Despite the adage, “Women and children first,” they were left behind when the squad of Navy SEALs could not take them after their second helicopter became disabled. There was not enough room for them, the SEALs, bin Laden’s body, several other men taken prisoner, and a treasure trove of hundreds of papers, a few computers, CDs, and other electronic devices that could give up even more information about the movements and membership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. I know the SEALs had to get away; the men and material were more important, but the women and the bin Laden children were considered non-essential baggage, and were expendable. The Telegraph also reported that the Americans took off after binding the wives and children by their hands.
Last but not least, a Kuwaiti newspaper has published what they think is the final will and testament of Osama bin Laden. I don’t believe that it is the final will, simply because nearly ten years have gone by, and a few of his wishes have not come true. Furthermore, it is quite possible that during this period he could have written others and sent them along to be revealed at the proper time. Bin Laden may have died broke; according to the Guardian, his family had cut him off financially, and any money he had would have been long left in his Afghanistan or Sudan hideouts when he fled. Money would have been donated to him by his sympathetic contacts. Still others feel that this will is a fake because supposedly bin Laden was not given to expressions of despair or internal critique, especially on paper. However, it certainly opens a window about what his feelings may have been towards his wives and children.
Osama bin Laden, who was said by one of his wives as being too consumed by jihad to care about family life, who shut up his wives and female relatives who spoke to him, and who took up carrying a cane to beat and push his children aside, apologized for ignoring them for the sake of his cause, yet he justified and argued that cause throughout the four-page testament. Bin Laden warned them not to follow in his footsteps; however, several of his sons, as shown in the LES article did indeed join their father in al Qaeda. The will was dated in late December 2001, three months after 9-11, and the battle of Tora Bora was about to commence. The text has been in circulation in Arab and Muslim circles since about 2002.
The al-Qaeda leader also told his offspring not to join al-Qaeda and ordered his wives not to remarry.
“You, my children, I apologise for giving you so little of my time because I responded to the need for Jihad,” the will states.
The four-page document, published in a Kuwaiti newspaper, is largely devoted to justifying the terrorist’s efforts to destroy America and Israel. There is no mention of possessions. Bin Laden was believed to have inherited an £18 million fortune from his father, a construction magnate in Saudi Arabia.
The instruction to his 24 children not to fight jihad cites a precedent from the Islamic texts. Omar bin al-Khattab, the successor of the Prophet Mohammad as Islam’s leader, also left written instructions to his son, Abdullah, not to wage holy war.
Bin Laden’s four wives were ordered not to find new husbands and focus on raising his offspring. “Don’t consider marrying again, and devote yourselves to your children and guide them to the right path,” the will states.
I’m faintly amused by bin Laden’s admonition to his wives that he should stay the one and only in their lives even after his death, and not remarry and perhaps bear other children. That his wives should cleave to his children is already a given, but giving them a more stable and caring stepfather who might eclipse him? Ha, no way. If the will is a genuine document, it shows bin Laden’s narcissism. Like Hitler writing his will in the final days of the Third Reich, bin Laden could not accept the idea that his family might live without him happy and in better circumstances; thus, he suggests that they remain static and unchanging.
However, I know for sure that Osama bin Laden strayed from what is right.