Singer Sheds Bin Laden Name, Aims for Stardom

ByABC News
June 2, 2005, 5:06 PM

June 3, 2005 — -- Until recently, Wafah Dufour was known as Wafah bin Ladin, a monumental handicap for this aspiring singer.

Her lyrics are in English and the sentiments expressed are clearly Western. But this 25-year-old cosmopolitan woman is a product of several cultures.

Dufour's passport is American, her education European, her heritage Saudi Arabian. She is also the niece of Osama bin Laden. Dufour told Barbara Walters she has "never met him" but still can't escape the name.

"No, I can't. Unfortunately," said Dufour.

She has adopted her mother's maiden name, Dufour, and is now looking to develop a singing career after spending several years living in the United States.

A member of the huge bin Laden family, Dufour estimates she has 200 cousins.

Her father is Osama's half-brother and they are just two of the 54 children fathered by Mohammed bin Laden, whose construction companies have changed the face of the Middle East.

The shockwaves from 9/11 reverberated through the entire bin Laden family. Osama's youngest brother, Abdullah bin Ladin, previously spoke with "20/20," telling Walters he barely knew Osama and was living in Boston on Sept. 11, 2001. He returned to Saudi Arabia almost immediately, fearing harassment.

At the time, Wafah bin Ladin, as she was known then, had been living in New York and attending Columbia Law School. But on the day of the terror attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., she was visiting her mother in Switzerland and recalls hearing the news.

"They were starting to say bin Laden did this, bin Laden did that and I was so numb because I couldn't even believe what was happening in New York," said Dufour. "It was my home."

She said she was both ashamed and concerned about what people would think of her family. "It's such a big family but in the United States or in Europe people don't really realize how big of a family it is, how many relatives there are."