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Video: Bin Laden's son speaks

By Senior investigative producer
NBC News
updated 1/21/2008 1:30:01 PM ET 2008-01-21T18:30:01

Over the last several days, Osama bin Laden's son Omar has recently criticized his father to Western reporters, saying it is time for the world's leading terrorist to "find another way" to deal with Islamic grievances against the West.

Among bin Laden's adult children, Omar is not alone in distancing himself from the leader of al-Qaida. U.S. officials note that there is, and has been, a split between those who have followed their father into al-Qaida and those who have chosen other paths. Some of it, officials hint, has to do with a split between Osama bin Laden and his first wife.

Omar, in fact, has taken both roads, training with al-Qaida in Afghanistan until 2000, then leaving his father to become a contractor in Egypt. The bin Laden family has long been engaged in the building trades and Bin Laden Construction, founded by Osama bin Laden's father, is one of the largest in the Middle East.

One U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that Omar left his father the same year his mother divorced the now 50-year-old Osama bin Laden.

Two Bin Laden sons are believed to be al-Qaida fighters. They are Sa'ad and Mohamed,  the third and sixth oldest sons, according to U.S. officials. Omar is the fourth oldest. The oldest son, Abdullah, has nothing to do with his father, the officials say.

Sa'ad worked with Khalid Shaik Mohamed and is believed to have participated in the planning of the bombing of the Djerba synagogue in Tunisia in March 2002, killing 17 people, mostly German tourists. He is in Iranian custody, say U.S. officials.

The Iranians claim he and a number of other al-Qaida officials were grabbed by Iranian forces as they exited Afghanistan at the end of 2001.

"They are in jail", one high-ranking Iranian diplomat told NBC News.

The United States is uncertain of the conditions under which he is detained, but as one official noted recently, "they don't communicate and that's what's important."

Favorite son
Mohamed is believed to be his father's favorite and often stands guard over him while he sleeps, say U.S. officials.

Mohamed is married to the daughter of Muhammed Atef. Atef was al-Qaida's military commander until he was killed by a U.S. airstrike in November 2001. Mohamed was seen with bin laden and Atef at their wedding ceremony in Afghanistan on Jan. 10, 2001.

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A third son, Hamza, is also believed to travel with his father and is trained as a fighter. Hamza is around 15 years old.

The rest of the family "comes and goes" in and out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, said a senior U.S. intelligence official. The United States tries to track them as well as Osama bin Laden in the hopes that by trailing the children, authories may gain clues as to the whereabouts of the father.

Bin Laden has seven adult children — six sons and a daughter — by the first of his five wives, who divorced him. All but the most recent wife are Saudi women.

Of the six adult sons, Abdullah, the oldest at 29 years old, has nothing to do with his father.

"He is a wuss," said one U.S. official. "He is not estranged, but is not a fighter. He has his own life and is not seen with his father."

Still, bin Laden used the nom de guerre, "Abu Abdullah", meaning "father of Abdullah" in the early 1990s.

The other adult sons, with approximate ages, are Abdel Rahman, 28; Sa'ad, 27; Omar, 26; Uthman, 24; and Mohamed, 23. Bin Laden's adult daughter is named Fatima, 27. She is believed to be married and has children, making bin Laden a grandfather. There are unconfirmed reports that her husband is also an al-Qaida fighter. Another son, Hamza, around 15 years old, is believed to have traveled with his father.

At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks attacks, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Osama bin Laden was believed to have "at least 23 children — 14 boys and nine girls." The number may have grown since.

Young wife
Bin Laden's newest and youngest wife, a Yemeni named Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, is at 24, younger than his five oldest children. Bin Laden married her at age 17 after divorcing his first wife. Muslims are not permitted more than four wives. They had their first child in early 2002.

Osama Bin Laden himself is one of 53 children of Mohammed bin Laden, a Saudi of Yemeni origin. Mohammed was close to Saudi royalty until his death in a plane crash in 1967. Osama bin Laden was 10 at the time and had little contact with this father. Osama bin Laden reportedly has 24 brothers and 28 sisters born to 10 different women. The al-Qaida leader is the only son of the least favorite wife, according to reports. His mother is a Palestinian, who now lives in Syria.

There is video of both Sa'ad and Mohamed: Mohamed, when he married Atef's daughter on Jan. 10, 2001, and Sa'ad was shown with another son, Hamza, then 8 or 9, playing near the wreckage of a downed helicopter on Nov. 7, 2001. The tape was released by the U.S. government in late July 2002. Sa'ad was shown in a report by NBC News' correspondent Jim Miklaszewski that ran July 29, 2002.

Hamza has been seen twice, once playing in the helicopter wreckage and also reciting a prayer at his brother's wedding.

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