Ruling family

Bin Laden family

The bin Laden family (بن لادن), also spelled bin Ladin, is a wealthy family intimately connected with the innermost circles of the Saudi royal family. The family was thrown into media spotlight through the activities of one of its members, Osama bin Laden. The financial interests of the bin Laden family are represented by the Saudi Binladin Group, a global construction and equity management conglomerate grossing $5 billion U.S. dollars annually, and one of the largest construction firms in the Islamic world, with offices in London and Geneva. According to an American diplomat, the bin Laden family also owns part of Microsoft and Boeing.

The family traces its origins to a poor, uneducated Yemenite, Sheikh Mohammed bin Laden (died 1967). Mohammed bin Laden was a native of the Shafiite (Sunni) Hadhramaut coast in southern Yemen and emigrated to Saudi Arabia prior to World War I. He set up a construction company and came to Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's attention through construction projects, later being awarded contracts for major renovations at Mecca, where he made his initial fortune from exclusive rights to all mosque and other religious building construction not only in Saudi Arabia, but as far as Ibn Saud's influence reached. Until his death, Mohammed bin Laden had exclusive control over restorations at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Soon the bin Laden corporate network extended far beyond construction sites.

Mohammed's special intimacy with the monarchy was inherited by the younger bin Laden generation. Mohammed's sons attended Victoria College, Alexandria Egypt. Their schoolmates included King Hussein of Jordan, Zaid Al Rifai, the Kashoggi brothers (whose father was one of the king's physicians), Kamal Adham (who ran the General Intelligence Directorate under King Faisal), present-day contractors Mohammed Al Attas, Fahd Shobokshi and Ghassan Sakr and actor Omar Sharif.

When Mohammed bin Laden died in 1967, his son Salem bin Laden took over the family enterprises, until his own accidental death in 1988. Salem was one of at least 54 children by various wives.

The Mecca event

The bin Laden connection with the House of Saud was severely strained in 1979, when Islamist insurgents briefly took control of the mosque at Mecca. Trucks owned by the family had been used to smuggle arms into the tightly controlled city. Mahrous bin Laden had been the enabler, working with the Islamist insurgency. His connection was through the son of a Sultan of Yemen who had been radicalized by Syrian members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mahrous was actually arrested for a time, but is now managing the Medina branch of the bin Laden enterprises.

Bin Ladens and King Fahd

The two closest friends of King Fahd were Prince Mohammed ben Abdullah (son of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's youngest brother) who died in the early 1980s and Salem bin Laden who died in 1988, when a plane that he was flying flew into powerlines in San Antonio, Texas. PBS "Frontline"

Alleged business connections of the Bush and bin Laden families

Michael Moore's highly critical movie Fahrenheit 9/11 alleges strong business connections between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. Moore based most of his claims on Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud which relates how Salem bin Laden invested through James R. Bath, the sole U.S. business representative for Salem bin Laden, some money in Arbusto Energy, a company run by George W. Bush.

Several members of the Bush family are investors in the Carlyle Group, a defense contractor and investment fund with numerous interests in the Middle East, run by former Reagan administration Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci. The media noted that former President George H. W. Bush attended an investment meeting at the Washington, D.C. Ritz-Carlton hotel on September 10, 2001 and in particular a meeting with Shafiq bin Laden, representing joint interests of the Saudi Binladin Group and Carlyle. (Bush did not attend the morning of September 11, although it has been alleged that the meeting took place during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Former Secretary of State James Baker was present, along with Carlucci.) The Carlyle and Binladin groups mutually severed their business relationship on October 26, 2001.

Family members

American and European intelligence officials estimate that all the relatives of the family may number as much as 600, and that several members of the bin Laden family sympathize with Osama. The Saudi government revoked his passport and the bin Laden family officially disowned Osama in 1994. The Saudi government also stripped Osama bin Laden of his citizenship, for publicly speaking out against them, after they permitted U.S. troops to be based in Saudi Arabia in preparation for the 1991 Gulf War.

The groupings of the family, based on the nationalities of the wives, include the most prominent "Saudi group", a "Syrian group", a "Lebanese group," and an "Egyptian group". The Egyptian group employs 40,000 people as that country's largest private foreign investor. Osama bin Laden was born the only son of Muhammed bin Laden's tenth wife, Hamida al-Attas, who was of Syria origin, making Osama a member of the Syrian group.

First generation

  • Muhammed Awad bin Laden (born c. 1908 in Yemen), the family patriarch; before World War I, Muhammed, originally poor and uneducated, emigrated from Hadhramaut, on the south coast of Yemen, to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he began to work as a porter. Starting his own business in 1930, Muhammed built his fortune as a building contractor for the Saudi royal family during the 1950s. Married 22 times, with about 55 children; Osama bin Laden was born as the 17th. Muhammed died in a 1967 plane crash in Saudi Arabia, and control passed to his son, Salem.
  • Alia Ghanem (born in Syria) Muhammed's 10th wife, and mother of Osama; divorced soon after Osama was born, and remarried Osama's stepfather c. 1958.
  • Muhammad al-Attas Osama's stepfather, in whose household Osama was raised at Jeddah; worked at the bin Laden company. The couple had four children, Osama's three half-brothers and one half-sister.
  • Abdullah bin Laden, uncle of OBL; headed SBG, died in Medina, March 21, 2002, at age 75.

Second generation

  • Salem bin Laden (born 1946) attended Millfield, the English boarding school; took over the family empire in 1967; an amateur rock guitarist in the 1970s; married an English art student, Caroline Carey, whose half brother Ambrose Douglas is the illegitimate eldest son of the Marquess of Queensberry in Scotland; during the 1980s he aided the Reagan Administration, which secretly arranged for an estimated thirty-four million dollars to be funnelled through Saudi Arabia to the Contras, in Nicaragua, according to French intelligence; was killed outside San Antonio, Texas in 1988, when an experimental ultralight plane that he was flying got tangled in power lines.
  • Tarek bin Laden, b. 1947; once called "the personification of the dichotomy (conservativism and change) of Saudi Arabia. In the 1990s, TBL was general supervisor of the International Islamic Relief Organization.
  • Bakr bin Laden, succeeded Salem as chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group; major power broker in Jeddah.
  • Hassan bin Laden, senior vice president of the SBG.
  • Yehia bin Laden, also active in the SBG; in 2001 owned 16 percent of Cambridge, MA-based Hybridon, Inc.
  • Mahrous bin Laden was implicated in the Grand Mosque Seizure, carried out by dissidents against the Saudi ruling family at the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, on November 20, 1979. This event shook the Muslim world with the ensuing violence and killing of hundreds at the holiest of Islamic sites. Trucks owned by the family were reported to have been used to smuggle arms into the tightly controlled city. The bin Laden connection was through the son of a Sultan of Yemen who had been radicalized by Syrian members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mahrous was actually arrested for a time, but in the Saudi government response, he was not beheaded along with 63 others who were, their public executions broadcast on live Saudi television. Later exonerated, he joined the family business, and became manager of the Medina branch of the bin Laden enterprises, and a member of the board.
  • Osama bin Laden (born 1957 in Saudi Arabia) founder of al-Qaeda and is believed to have masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. He remains one of the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists.
  • Najwa Ghanem (born c. 1960 in Syria) Osama's first wife, married 1974; a first cousin, and his mother's niece.
  • (shaikha) al-Attas (born c. 1960), half sister of Osama, daughter of Alia Ghanem and Muhammad al-Attas, married Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. He was the founder of Benevolence International Foundation, in the Philippines in 1988. During this period, Khalifa is believed to have received large donations of cash from outside the country, some of which, intelligence officials suspect, may have been funnelled to him by Al Qaeda. He also ran the International Relations and Information Centre, by which embezzled money was funneled to Ramzi Yousef. In 1993, his business cards were found in the Jersey City, New Jersey apartment that Yousef stayed in while he was involved with the World Trade Center bombing plot. Khalifa was first arrested on December 14, 1994 in Mountain View, California, placed in solitary confinement and the contents of his luggage were logged and edited. In 1995, Khalifa was arrested in San Francisco on charges of violating United States immigration laws. He was detained while the Justice Department tried but failed to gather enough information to charge him in connection with suspected terrorist activities. Eventually, he was deported on May 5, 1995 to Jordan, which had an outstanding warrant for him on charges stemming from the bombing of movie theatres in Amman in 1994, for which he had been under a possible death sentence, convicted in absentia. His conviction was later overturned, in a new trial during which he was acquitted. In 1996, Khalifa returned to Saudi Arabia, where he was again arrested after 9/11, but later released. He still lives in Saudi Arabia, where after 9/11 he publicly condemned Osama Bin Laden, and may now be retired from any related association to al-Qaeda.
  • Yeslam bin Ladin studied in the 1970s at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles; settled in Switzerland; became a Swiss citizen c. 2001; Geneva-based head of the family's European holding company, the Saudi Investment Company; was scrutinized by Swiss and American investigators because of a financial stake he has in a Swiss aviation firm; he has claimed to not have had contact with Osama since c. 1981
  • Abdullah bin Laden (born c. 1965); graduate of Harvard Law School; lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts on 9/11, the only relative to remain in the United States, staying in Boston for almost a month.
  • Shafig bin Laden (شفيق بن لادن), half-brother of Osama's, was a guest of honour at the Carlyle Group's Washington conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on September 11, 2001, and among the 13 members of the bin Ladin family to leave the United States on September 19, 2001 aboard N521DB.

Third generation

  • Wafah Dufour (born Wafah bin Ladin on May 23, 1975 in Los Angeles, California) is an American model and aspiring singer-songwriter. She spent the early part of her life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Dufour, her little sisters Najia (1978) and Noor (1987), her mother (1954) and her father (born on October 19, 1950) then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. In 1988, her parents separated. She earned a law diploma at Geneva Law School (Switzerland) and later a master's degree from Columbia Law School in the United States. She lived in Manhattan until around the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but was staying in Geneva for summer holiday at the time of the attacks. She currently lives in New York City and is working on her first album.
  • Abdallah Osama bin Laden (born c. 1976), son of Osama and Najwa. Currently lives in Saudi Arabia. Abdallah runs his own firm, called Fame Advertising, in Jeddah; he is closely watched by the Saudi government, which has restricted his travel from the kingdom since 1996; reportedly, he has never disowned his father.
  • Omar Osama bin Laden; (born c 1981) son of Osama and Najwa; Omar accompanied Osama on his exile to Sudan from 1991-1996, and then to Afghanistan after that. He returned to Saudi Arabia after an apparent falling-out with his father over the September 11 attacks. For a while Omar ran his own company in Jeddah as a contractor and also worked with large consignments of scrap metals, and has recently married Zaina Mohamed Al-Sabah aka Jane Felix-Browne, a parish councillor from Moulton, near Northwich in Cheshire UK. Their mutual love of horses brought them together. She is his third wife and 24 years older than him, and he is her sixth husband. He had one son, outside of marriage. The couple announced their divorce in September 2007; she cited threats to their "lives and liberty". After 2 weeks Zaina and Omar decided not to part and would not let threats destroy their marriage, they are now together, they have just finished filming for a BBC documentary, Omar and Zaina will live in Europe and work in politics in hope of bringing world peace.
  • Saad bin Laden; (born 1979) son of Osama and Najwa; Saad accompanied Osama on his exile to Sudan from 1991-1996, and then to Afghanistan after that. He is believed to be married to a woman from Yemen. Saad reportedly arrived in Iran in 2002, from Afghanistan with a fake Iranian Passport using the name Saad Mahmoudian, the Customs officer immediately recognized that the passport was fake, he was searched and questioned briefly and notified airport security but did not notitify the SAVAMA (which is also responsible for identifing detained people at airports) as he was supposed to. As a result the officer found nothing suspicious about his entrance and permitted him to leave Tehran. He was believed to have been heavily responsible for the bombing of a Tunisian synagogue on April 11, 2002. He was then implicated in the May 12, 2003 suicide bombing in Riyadh, and the Morocco bombing four days later. He is believed to still be in Iran, but others claim he was either arrested or thrown out by the Iranian Government to Afghanistan or Pakistan for being the alleged perpetrator of the 2005 Qom Bombings.
  • Muhammad bin Osama bin Laden (born c. 1983), son of Osama and Najwa, married the daughter of the late al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef in January 2001, at Kandahar, Afghanistan, with footage broadcast by Al-Jazeera, where three of Osama's step-siblings and Osama's mother were in attendance.
  • Hamza bin Laden (born c. 1991), son of Osama. Senior member of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
  • Abdul Aziz bin Laden, manages SBG's Egyptian operations; ranked Number 2 in the 2006 UAE National Superstock Bike Championship.

Family tree

Mohammed bin Laden (1908-1967)
His sons were:

  1. Salem bin Laden (1946-1988) married Caroline Carey
  2. Ali bin Laden
  3. Thabout Bin Laden
  4. Mahrous Bin Laden
  5. Hassan bin Laden
  6. Omar bin Laden
  7. Bakr bin Laden
  8. Khalid bin Laden
  9. Yeslam bin Ladin (b. 1950) married Carmen Dufour (b. 1954)
    1. Wafah Dufour (b. 1975)
    2. Najia Dufour (b. 1978)
    3. Noor Dufour (b. 1987)
  10. Ghalib bin Laden
  11. Yehia bin Laden
  12. Abdul Aziz bin Laden
  13. Issa bin Laden
  14. Tarek bin Laden
  15. Ahmed bin Laden
  16. Ibrahim bin Laden
  17. Shafiq bin Laden
  18. Osama bin Laden (b. 1957) married Najwa Ghanem (b. 1957)
    1. Abdallah Osama bin Laden (b. 1976)
    2. Saad bin Laden (b. 1979)
    3. Omar Ossama bin Laden (b. 1981)
    4. Muhammad bin Laden (b. 1983)
  19. Khalil bin Ladin
  20. Saleh bin Ladin
  21. Haider bin Laden
  22. Saad bin Laden
  23. Abdullah bin Laden
  24. Yasser bin Laden
  25. Mohammad bin Laden (b. 1967)

The Bin Laden flights

At least 13 relatives of Osama bin Laden, accompanied by bodyguards and associates, were allowed to leave the United States on a chartered flight eight days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a passenger manifest released on July 21, 2004. The passenger list was made public by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who obtained the manifest from officials at Boston's Logan International Airport.

Among the passengers with the bin Laden surname were Omar Awad bin Laden, who had lived with OBL nephew Abdallah Osama bin Laden who was involved in forming the U.S. branch of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth in Alexandria, and Shafig bin Laden, a half brother of OBL who was reportedly attending the annual investor conference of the Carlyle Group

Also on board were Akberali Moawalla, an official with the investment company run by Yeslam bin Laden, another of Osama bin Laden's half brothers. Records show that a passenger, Kholoud Kurdi, lived in Northern Virginia with a bin Laden relative.

The bin Laden flight has received fresh publicity because it was a topic in Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

In mid-July 2007 Judicial Watch released new documents from the FBI related to the "expeditious departure" of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, from the United States following the 9/11 attacks. According to one of the formerly confidential FBI documents, dated September 21, 2001, terrorist Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights. This news garnered international headlines.


Even considering a possible direct bin Laden link to the flight, it was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on September 20, 2001, according to the document.

Overall, FBI documents uncovered by Judicial Watch include details of the six flights between September 14 and September 24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. Only 4 of 100 passengers on three Saudi flights leaving Las Vegas between September 19 and September 24 were questioned by agents.

The documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies. On one document the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight (commonly referred to as the "Bin Laden Family Flight"). On another document, however, the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 of 22 passengers on the same flight.

Judicial Watch lawyers obtained a court order from U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts requiring the FBI to resubmit "proper disclosures" to the Court and Judicial Watch. The judge had previously criticized the adequacy of redaction descriptions, the validity of exemption claims, and other errors in the FBI's disclosures. The FBI had previously redacted Osama bin Laden's name from the records in order "to protect privacy interests."



  • Coll, Steve (April 1, 2008). The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century. Penquin.

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