London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Bakr Bin Laden, the youngest son of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus on Christmas night following an absence of more than eight years in Iran. However the case of Osama Bin Laden’s daughter Iman, who sought refuge in the Saudi embassy in Tehran, remains suspended, and Omar Bin Laden informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian authorities want to [first] confirm his sister’s identity.
Omar Bin Laden, Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden’s fourth son, said that the single source of happiness or joy felt by the Bin Laden family was in the return of his youngest brother, Bakr, aged 16, from Tehran. Omar Bin Laden said that Bakr was reunited with his mother in Damascus suddenly and without pre-arrangements.
Omar Bin Laden told Asharq Al-Awsat “My youngest brother, Bakr, arrived from Tehran on Christmas Day, the family was overjoyed, and my mother wiped away many tears [of joy], and this increased our trust in God Almighty, for what is closed, by God’s will, becomes open, and we thank God for this. However this joy will not be complete until the safe return of the rest of my siblings, God willing, from the Iranian capital.”
Omar Bin Laden thanked the Iranian authorities for their good intentions towards his sister Iman who sought refuge in the Saudi embassy in Tehran more than one month ago. He also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that ten days ago he, along with his wife Zaina, and his mother, Osama Bin Laden’s first wife Najwa al-Ghanem, applied for visas to visit Iran, and that they are still waiting for a response [to this request].
Omar Bin Laden confirmed that the Iranian authorities wish to first confirm his sister Iman’s identity, along with the identities of his other 5 siblings who are present in Iran, and his father’s wife, Umm-Hamzah.
Omar Bin Laden, aged 29, told Asharq Al-Awsat “we are ready to prove to the Iranians that these are the children of Bin Laden. For our part, we also want to prove our good intentions, and we will take my siblings to any place that they want to go outside Iran.”
He said “the goal is to reunite the family after more than eight and a half years of sad separation.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast confirmed in an e-mail correspondence with Asharq Al-Awsat that his countries government will deal with the case of Iman Bin Laden seeking to leave the country on humanitarian grounds.
Iman Bin Laden is currently residing in the Saudi embassy in Tehran, but she wishes to leave the country. The Iranian government wants legal documentation from Saudi Arabia confirming her identity, as well as further clarification on how she came to be in Iran.
Mehmanparast said that once this process is completed, Tehran will deal with this case from a humanitarian perspective, which is interpreted by some observers as a sign that Iman Bin Laden will not face legal action for illegally entering Iran.
Omar Bin Laden revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that he had applied for a visa to visit Iran after receiving a number of telephone calls from an Iranian woman speaking Arab in an Iraqi accent and claiming to work for the Iranian Foreign Ministry. She asked them to travel to Iran in order to receive Iman Bin Laden from the Saudi embassy, and the rest of the family members from the residential complex, and for this to take place quietly away from the eyes of the media.
Omar Bin Laden’s wife, Zaina, told Asharq Al-Awsat that telephone communication between Iman Bin Laden in the Saudi embassy and her mother, Najwa al-Ghanem in Syria has been suspended for almost a week. She said that Najwa al-Ghanem is living in a state of extreme grief and sadness because she is not allowed to speak with her daughter. Zaina said that she thinks that what is happening is against the teachings of Islam, which advocates family unity and cohesion.
Zaina al-Sabah said she does not know “what the mother or daughter did to be denied communicating with one another in this manner.” Zaina also called for the Iranian authorities to continue their good deed of looking after her husband’s siblings since 2001 by rapidly facilitating their return to their family.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Sunday that the Saudi government is in talks with Iran to secure the release of the Al Qaeda chief’s daughter. Prince Saud al-Faisal said “we do not want to get involved in the political issues relating to this case because I do not want to complicate the issues, and possibly delay Iman’s departure from Tehran.”
The statements made by the Saudi Foreign Minister represent the first official response to this case by the Saudi government. Asharq Al-Awsat first discovered that Iman Bin Laden escaped from the guards assigned to her during a shopping trip in Tehran and sought refuge in the Saudi embassy. This story represented the first conclusive evidence that some of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden’s children are present in Iran. This was later confirmed by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki who confirmed that Iman Bin Laden is present in the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and will be allowed to leave Iran once her identity is confirmed
In an e-mail to Asharq Al-Awsat, Omar Bin Laden said that he almost lost his life on more than one occasion during the years that he lived with his father in Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. He confirmed that he had visited his father’s training camps, and that his father sent him to the frontlines more than once during the Afghanistan war [against the occupying Soviet forces]. He also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that he was in the company of his father when he received the news of the bombing of two embassies in Africa, saying “we were quickly transferred to a safe house following the bombing of the two embassies, where we spent more than one month, during which former US President Bill Clinton bombed Afghanistan with cruise missiles.”