Half brother says bin Laden is alive and well

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Half brother says bin Laden is alive and well


March 19, 2002 Posted: 10:23 AM EST (1523 GMT) JEDDA, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- A half brother of Osama bin Laden says the terrorist's family has its own information that bin Laden is alive and that he does not have kidney disease requiring dialysis.

In an interview with CNN correspondent Rula Amin, Sheikh Ahmad -- who did not want his last name revealed -- also said he does not believe that bin Laden, part of a large and wealthy Saudi family, could be behind the September 11 attacks against the United States.

"He is my brother. I know him. I lived with him for years. I know how much he fears God," Sheikh Ahmad said. He and Osama have the same mother but different fathers.

Sheikh Ahmad spoke fondly of his older brother, describing him as a simple, deeply religious man with "a very soft heart" who "hates injustice."

Such words stand in stark contrast to how President Bush and other world leaders have described bin Laden, branding him the mastermind behind the September attacks. An estimated 3,063 people were killed when four hijacked U.S. commercial jets crashed into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Virginia and a field in Pennsylvania.

"There's overwhelming evidence bin Laden was behind the attacks of September 11," said Peter Bergen, who has written a book about bin Laden. "If the family chooses not to believe that, that's just how families operate."

Family says phone call indicates bin Laden is alive Sheikh Ahmad said his mother received a call three weeks ago saying Osama was fine. He did not say who made the phone call.

"He said they believed the phone call was credible, that Osama is alive," said CNN's Amin.

The half brother knows bin Laden better than much of the rest of the family, which officially denounced Osama in the mid-1990s after he condemned the Saudi royal family for allying itself with the United States against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.

Sheikh Ahmad said he visited bin Laden a few times when bin Laden lived in Sudan and he saw him in Afghanistan last year.

Sheikh Ahmad said he was "very worried" when the United States declared him a wanted man, but his concerns have eased.

"It's easier now. We got used to it. We know any minute it's possible that we will hear some bad news," he said.

Sheikh Ahmad spoke Arabic and his comments are based on English transcript of the 15-minute interview. It was taped this past Tuesday in a friend's house in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, where he lives

Half brother condemns September 11 attacks Sheikh Ahmad is a 36-year-old married businessman who runs an advertising production company that's part of the vast and profitable bin Laden family business empire. The family business started in construction, expanding mosques in Mecca and Medina and building roads and palaces for the Saudi royal family.

Sheikh Ahmad described the September 11 attacks as "terrible."

"Any Muslim wouldn't accept this," he said, adding there was "no way" his brother could be involved in the hijackings.

When the attacks came, it was a disaster for the bin Ladens. Two dozen of them were living in the United States, according to a family spokesman. For their own safety, the Saudi government quickly arranged for a charter jet that spirited them out of the country from Boston's Logan Airport.

Since then, the bin Laden family has agonized over whether to publicly denounce Osama's activities.

Sheikh Ahmad said he and his mother last saw bin Laden at the January 2001 wedding of one of Osama's sons in Afghanistan. It was at that wedding that Sheikh Ahmad said his infamous brother told him that stories he required kidney dialysis were not true.

"He loved his family and friends, gatherings. He especially adores his mother. First comes God, then his mother," Sheikh Ahmad said.

Sheikh Ahmad was hesitant at first about doing the interview but agreed, believing he knew a side of Osama that he wanted to share with others.

"We grew up together in the same house," he said. "Osama is known for being a simple person, very merciful, a very soft heart. It's impossible that anyone would sit with him and not like him or get bored. Frankly, Osama is very close to the heart and very popular."

Asked whether he believed his brother would be captured, Sheikh Ahmad replied, "I can't tell. As his brothers, we wish him safety."

Their mother, he said, was "worried most" about bin Laden.

"She is an expert now, more than any media person. She watched all the news on all the different TV channels. We get her all the newspapers, the interviews, and she is always discussing it."

Whatever his brother's fate, Sheikh Ahmad said he would like to portray his brother should Hollywood ever make a movie about him.

Throughout the interview, Sheikh Ahmad spoke repeatedly of his bin Laden's religious devotion.

"No joking about this, when we were very young, he would wake me up and my sister. We were lazy, we were young, but we had to get up; he was our older brother. He would say, 'Ahmad, get up, get up,' and we would. We would pray with him and then just go to school, without going back to sleep."

Sheikh Ahmad recalled going to the movies with bin Laden, seeing cowboy and karate movies, a youthful practice that stopped when bin Laden turned 14 and turned even deeper to religion.

He said he was not surprised his brother turned so deeply to religion.

"He is very stubborn," Sheikh Ahmad said. "When he puts his mind into something, he will do it."

-- (Osama@is.a.good.boy.really), March 19, 2002


One of my favorite lines was this:

"Any Muslim wouldn't accept this," he said, adding there was "no way" his brother could be involved in the hijackings.

He must have somehow missed all the videos of his half-brother praising the hijackers for their deed. He clearly "accepted" it just fine.

-- (duh@duh.duh), March 19, 2002.

Arabs are the biggest liars on the planet. Always have been, always will be.

-- Never (trust@rag.head), March 19, 2002.

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