London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Khalid Bin Laden, son of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, has called on Iran to release the members of his family who have been “imprisoned” by Tehran, stressing that the Iranians have rejected several requests by “scholars and dignitaries to mediate their release.”
In a letter published by the Global Islamic Media Front, the European media arm of the Al Qaeda organization, and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group monitoring service, Khalid Bin Laden called on Iranian Supreme leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene to secure the release of the Bin Laden family members being held by Iran.
Khalid Bin Laden said that his family members “were forced to enter Iran through unofficial means, and most of those who did [this] were women and children.” He added “they requested a number of times to leave Iran, only to be beaten and silenced.”
Khalid Bin Laden added “We learned of it and we communicated with the Tehran government many times. We asked scholars and dignitaries to mediate their release promising they won’t return to Iran. But to no avail.”
Khalid Bin Laden also made reference to the escape of his sister, Iman Bin Laden, aged 17, who escaped from Iranian custody and sought refuge in the Saudi embassy in Tehran in early December 2009.
For his part, Omar Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda chief’s fourth son, informed Asharq Al-Awsat in a telephone interview that his brother Khalid Bin Laden is younger than him and is 19-years old and that he is not aware of his brother’s current location.
Omar Bin Laden added “I feel proud because my siblings are pulling together today, in the face of some people’s weakness with regards to removing the plight and distress from the remaining young family members who are being detained in Iran.”
He also thanked his brother Khalid Bin Laden for his initiative, and his strength and determination despite the difficult circumstances, saying “The last time that I saw him was in 2000, along with the rest of my siblings, before I left Afghanistan.” He said “I think him and my mother Mrs. Najwa Ghanem, the first wife of Osama Bin Laden, for his good proposal and his desire to secure the release of the rest of our siblings, despite the difficult circumstances that he is facing.”
Omar Bin Laden also conveyed his conviction that his brother Khalid Bin Laden had help in writing this letter. He added to Asharq Al-Awsat “Today I feel happy, because I have confirmed that my brother Khalid is fine, thanks God.”
Omar Bin Laden also told Asharq Al-Awsat “I want to reassure my brother Khalid, with regards to my knowledge of the Iranian brothers and that they are providing good treatment to the remaining family members. There is a solution that is close at hand, and the remaining family members will leave Tehran for whatever country they wish, legal proceedings are under way, and this will be over soon.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki previously confirmed that Iman Bin Laden, who remains in the Saudi embassy in Tehran, could leave Iran once her identity has been confirmed by the Iranian authorities. He said “We do not know…how she entered the Saudi embassy, or how she entered Iran in the first place. We were not able to confirm her identity…and if her identity is confirmed she can leave Iran.” However Khalid Bin Laden said he was surprised “that the [Iranian] Foreign Minister had not known her identity, stating that he had no idea how she entered Iran and how she arrived at the embassy. He had also previously stated that there were no members of my family present in Iran, despite the fact that they have been in custody there for several years.”
Khalid Bin Laden also revealed that this detention in Iran had led to the “spread of emotional and psychological disorders amongst the women and children” and called for them to be released “as soon as possible [in order to] relieve this great suffering.”
In late December 2009, Asharq Al-Awsat revealed that 18 members of the Bin Laden family who have been missing since the September 11 attacks have been present in Iran and under house arrest. Omar Bin Laden also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat in early January that the youngest Bin Laden son, Bakr Bin Laden, had been released by the Iranian authorities, and that he joined his mother in Damascus on 25 December.
Omar Bin Laden previously confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Saad (age 29), Bakr (age 16), Osman (age 25), Fatima (age 22), and Hamzah (age 20), and Osama Bin Laden’s wife Umm Hazmzah, along with Iman Bin Laden (age 17) who later escaped, had been under house arrest in Iran since fleeing Afghanistan following the 2001 US invasion. He added that his married siblings in Iran have a total of 11 children.