Family in U.S. Cut Off Ties to bin Laden

ByABC News via via logo

B O S T O N, Sept. 19, 2001 -- Across America, most people harbor nothing but ill will toward Osama bin Laden, the man President Bush has named the prime suspect behind last week's attacks.

Yet two of his brothers and other close family members live quietly in the very country that was the target of bin Laden's fury.

Osama bin Laden, the 17th of 53 siblings, comes from a wealthy family whose construction business handled billion-dollar infrastructure projects in their native Saudi Arabia. After family patriarch, Sheik Mohammed bin Laden died in 1968, each child inherited an estimated $500 million. Osama bin Laden, exiled from Saudi Arabia, is believed to have used his millions to bankroll terrorist training camps in Sudan, the Philippines and Afghanistan, where he resides, and other nations.

But his siblings in America have forged very different paths.

One brother, Mohammed bin Laden, owns several luxury waterfront condos at Flagship Wharf in Boston that sell for $500,000 and up. Another brother, Abdullah bin Laden lives in Cambridge, Mass.

At least one bin Laden family member attended Harvard University. There is no evidence that the bin Ladens who live in the United States have had any contact with Osama bin Laden. They appear to have severed all ties to him years ago. The bin Laden siblings were born of at least a dozen different mothers.

Disowned by Family Patriarch

This week, in Saudi Arabia, the patriarch of the bin Laden family, Sheikh Abdullah bin Laden, Osama's uncle, publicly denounced him.

"All the family members condemn all violent and terrorist acts, even if Osama is behind them," the uncle told reporters.

"They condemn the act. They condemn terrorism and they disavow any connections to Osama," said Adfil Najam, a professor of international studies at Boston University said.

It is not the first time Osama bin Laden's relatives have distanced themselves from their notorious family member. His relatives also denounced him after the 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa — attacks for which Osama bin Laden has been indicted in U.S. federal court.

Family Known for Philanthropy

Although Boston is not believed to be the bin Ladens' main residence, they have shared some of their Saudi fortune in the city. They donated $1 million to Harvard Law school, and another $1 million for the study of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard's School of Design.

Harvard officials say they have no reason to believe that the donations were in any way linked to Osama bin Laden. Still, Harvard officials have spent the week explaining to angry alumni and radio talk show hosts that the bin Laden family group, who represent about 20 of Osama bin Laden's siblings, disavowed his politics and actions a long time ago.

"While there is no evidence that they did that to distance themselves from Osama bin Laden, it certainly was a very public act that did convey that we are very different from that Osama bin Laden," Najam said.

— ABCNEWS' Ron Claiborne contributed to this report

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