An Arabian Family In The American Century
The Penguin Press
After the September 11 attacks of 2001 there were rumors circulating about members of the Bin Laden clan whisked out of the country by the CIA and of secret connections between the Bin Ladens and the Bush clan. Conspiracy theorists have spun elaborate tales based on these stories. So who are these Bin Ladens and were they really here and why? Steve Coll reveals the true story of the Bin Laden family as much as it can be known.
Osama is one of 54 sons and daughters of Mohamed Bin Laden, a building contractor from Yemen who built a business empire by serving the needs and the whims of the Al Saud dynasty for whom Saudi Arabia is named. Under his leadership and that of his oldest sons, Salem and Bakr the Bin Laden companies have grown into an international multi-million dollar operation, building highways, renovating the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the major mosques in Mecca and Medina, creating the Saudi telephone system and investing in satellite communications, fitting out luxury private aircraft in Texas and buying commercial real estate and condominium developments in Florida.
Returning from Afghanistan in the early 1990s, Osama Bin Laden became disenchanted with the society he found in his native Saudi Arabia. He soon broke with the Al Saud and king Fahd and exiled himself to Yemen and then Sudan. His family formally removed him from the Bin Laden business at this time. Theoretically he has been cut off from the Bin Laden family fortune since this time, before the embassy bombings, before the USS Cole and certainly before 911. By breaking with the Al Saud Osama broke with the golden goose from which the Bin Laden family fortune was laid.
There is some question whether Osama has received funds from any family members however. Al-Qaeda has relied on donations from within the Arab world for it's operating funds and Bin Laden has been a major factor in getting those donations.
Those mysterious Bin Ladens who were spirited out of the country? A half brother living in Beverly Hills, another attending Harvard Business School, many nephews and a few nieces attending various colleges throughout the country. They were taken to Paris on a flight chartered by the family, with the cooperation of, and after being questioned by the FBI. No connection to Al-Qaeda was found for any of them.
The Bin Laden business empire continues to prosper, building airports, palaces condominiums and resorts in the middle east. Osama continues to live in exile, somewhere in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands.