One of the sons of slain al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden has claimed that his father was training him to follow in his footsteps, making him fire guns as a child in Afghanistan and using his dogs to test chemical weapons.
In an interview with ‘The Sun’ newspaper while on a visit to Qatar, Bin Laden’s fourth eldest son Omar claims he was a “victim” and has tried to forget the “bad times” with his father.
The 41-year-old, who now lives with wife Zaina in Normandy, France, recalls Bin Laden telling him that he was the son chosen to carry on his work. He, however, chose to leave Afghanistan in April 2001, just months before the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
“I said goodbye and he said goodbye. I’d had enough of that world. He wasn’t happy that I was leaving,” he tells the newspaper.
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“I saw it,” he says, with reference to chemical experiments conducted by his father’s henchman.
“They tried it on my dogs and I wasn’t happy. I just try to forget all the bad times as much as I can. It’s very difficult. You suffer all the time,” he said.
Now a painter, Omar believes his art is like therapy and his favourite subject is “mountains after living in Afghanistan for five years”. His artwork reportedly sells for up to GBP 8,500 a canvas.
“They give me a safe feeling, like I’m untouchable,” said Omar, born in Saudi Arabia to Bin Laden’s first wife Najwa in March 1981.
“My father never asked me to join Al-Qaeda, but he did tell me I was the son chosen to carry on his work. He was disappointed when I said I was not suited to that life,” he is quoted as saying.
When asked why he thinks his father chose him as his heir, he tells the newspaper: “I don’t know, maybe because I was more intelligent, which is why I’m alive today.” His 67-year-old wife Zaina tells the newspaper Omar is her “soul mate” and believes he suffers from “very bad trauma, stress and panic attacks”.
“Omar loves and hates Osama at the same time. He loves him because he is his father but hates what he has done,” she says.
According to the ‘Sun’ report, Omar was in Qatar on May 2, 2011, when he heard the news that US Navy Seals had assassinated his father who was holed up in a Pakistan safehouse. The official US account is that Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea from the supercarrier USS Carl Vinson within 24 hours of his death.
However, Omar is doubtful: “It would have been much better to bury my father and know where his body is. But they didn’t give us the chance.
“I don’t know what they did to him. They say they threw him in the ocean but I don’t believe that. I think they took his body to America, for people to see.”