Bin Laden widows and children prepare for new life in Saudi Arabia
The 14 members of Osama bin Laden’s family who survived the US Navy Seal raid which killed him in May last year were on Friday preparing to live incognito – but probably in some luxury – in Saudi Arabia after being deported from Pakistan.
By Tom Hussain in Islamabad and Adam Baron in Sanaa
5:50PM BST 27 Apr 2012
They included three of his widowed wives, ten children and one grandchild. One of his wives, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, was deported to Saudi Arabia despite being a Yemeni, at the insistence of Yemen officials and members of her family who feared she might become a focal point for bin Laden’s followers or alternatively targeted by al-Qaeda militants.
In Saudi Arabia, the family members are expected to reside with bin Laden’s extended family, led by Osama’s half-brother, Bakr bin Mohammed Binladin, the chairman of Saudi Binladin. The kingdom’s biggest construction company, it is the foundation of the family’s fortune.
They were deported on the orders of a Pakistan court after being convicted of entering the country illegally, but it is understood officials wanted them removed from the country before next week’s first anniversary of the raid in which the al-Qaead leader was killed.
The raid caused a serious rift between Pakistan’s government and its military leadership which had not been warned about the American helicopter raid into the heart of Abbotabad, the army garrison town where bin Laden and his large family lived in a conspicuous mansion undetected for more than six years.
Since then, his widows and their children have been living under heavy security in a safe house in Islamabad while negotiations between the Pakistan, Yemen and Saudi governments on where they should be deported.
Bin Laden himself was born in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, but to a Yemeni construction billionaire. Yemeni officials regarded his wife Amal Ahmed al-Sadah to be a Saudi because bin Laden was a Saudi national, although Riyadh had revoked his nationality for aiming to topple the royal family.
A Yemen government official rejected claims that his Yemeni wife was being forced to live in exile in Saudi Arabia. “Its not an exile: her husband was a Saudi. Pakistan was exile,” he said. Her family have asked she be allowed the choice to return to Yemen at some point but it is understood she is likely to remain in Saudi Arabia.
The Pakistani interior ministry confirmed their deportation to Jeddah and described their destination, Saudi Arabia, as their “country of choice”.
They travelled to the airport in a minibus under heavy police escort and were smuggled into Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport through a secret entrance. Saudi diplomats took custody of the family at the airport and escorted them to the awaiting aircraft.
They have not been charged with any offence by the Saudi authorities, but will live under tight security, the family’s Pakistani lawyer, Aamir Khalil said.