Bin Laden’s son seeks help to free family in Iran

By Regan E. Doherty

DOHA (BestGrowthStock) – A son of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said on Sunday he hoped Qatar’s diplomacy would help win the release of his family members trapped in Iran.

In an interview with Reuters, Omar bin Laden said he hoped the Gulf Arab state would intervene on behalf of siblings who fled to Iran during the 2001 U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and have since lived there under house arrest.

“We have been dealing with the Qatari government. They have been very helpful and working very much on it. They have given a lot of help to other countries in the world, and we hope they can help us,” he said.

Several of Osama bin Laden’s children with his first wife Najwa fled to Iran in 2001, including Othman, aged about 27, Fatima, about 22, and Hamza, a son of bin Laden and his third wife Khairiyah, along with Khairiyah herself.

His sister Iman, about 17, was released three months ago after she took refuge at the Saudi embassy in Tehran and is now in Syria, he said. The others live in a Tehran compound and cannot leave or make calls without permission, bin Laden said.

“They have done nothing wrong, none of them,” he said.

SAUDI-IRAN RIVALRY

Bin Laden, currently living in Qatar, said he believed his family had a better chance of being released if they planned to go to a country other than Saudi Arabia.

“Iran has a problem with Saudi Arabia. They don’t want (the family) to go back home. That’s why I am asking for Qatar’s help, for Syria’s help,” he said. “They want to come here, or to Syria, or to any country in the world that would accept them.”

Relations between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and non-Arab, Shi’ite Iran have been marked by regional rivalry and mutual mistrust due to sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites and Tehran’s nuclear plans.

A close U.S. ally which hosts a large U.S. military base, Qatar has sought to carve out a role as a regional powerbroker, particularly in its efforts to engage Iran.

The tiny country, the world’s top natural gas exporter, has been a peace broker in conflicts including those in Lebanon, Yemen and Darfur.

Qatar has drawn close to Iran since Shi’ites came to power in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and Iran’s influence grew in Syria, Lebanon and among Palestinians.

Doha hosted Iranian President Ahmadinejad last year in a crisis meeting over Israel’s war on Gaza, which was boycotted by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Bin Laden has been working with other bodies, including the United Nations, to obtain his family’s release, he said.

The al Qaeda leader’s fourth-eldest son, Omar bin Laden broke with his father in 2001 after living in Afghanistan for much of 1996 to 2001. His father is believed to have about 20 children from several wives.

Omar left his father in Afghanistan in 2001 several months before the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Osama bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi family but had his nationality revoked. He is believed to be hiding in the mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In “Growing up bin Laden,” a book written by U.S. author Jean Sasson with Omar bin Laden and his mother, Omar bin Laden said he wanted to tell his story to show the damage done by war.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

Bin Laden’s son seeks help to free family in Iran