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Who are the Bin Ladens, the family that donated Rs 9.6 crore to Prince Charles charity?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadAug 01, 2022 | 14:32

Who are the Bin Ladens, the family that donated Rs 9.6 crore to Prince Charles charity?

Prince Charles's charity accepted a million pound donation from Osama Bin Laden's family. Photo: Getty Images

Osama Bin Laden. When the world hears the name, they think of global terrorism and the 9/11 attacks. The US spent years and billions of dollars to fin and kill the man. But members of his family, the Bin Ladens, contributed to charity in the western world years later. A Sunday Times report found that Britain's Prince Charles's charity accepted more than Rs 9.6 crore in donations from two of Osama Bin Laden's half-brothers in 2013, two years after his death. 

Who were the brothers? Bakr Bin Laden and his brother Shafiq. 

What is this weird nexus? While on one hand Osama Bin Laden became the West's number one enemy, on the other hand, they accepted money from his family years later. 

According to the report, there was nothing illegal in the donation by Bin Ladens to Prince Charles's charity, every box was checked. The US has also not raised any objection. But how can we understand why a western country, a close ally of the US, would accept money from the family of a terrorist? 

The reason: Osama Bin Laden was cast as the blackest sheep of the Bin Laden family. 

To understand why Prince Charles's charity accepted a donation from the family of a global terrorist, we need understand the Bin Ladens first. Even if the decision was not legally wrong, in terms of the moral and political compass, the views are very different.

The Bin Ladens: Osama Bin Laden is perhaps the most famous or infamous member of the family. But, the Bin Laden family itself is quite an influential. The Bin Ladens are one of the richest people in Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Bin Laden: The Bin Laden family fortunes were built by Osama's father Mohammed Bin Laden, who came to Saudi Arabia from Yemen during the 1930s and built a construction empire - the Saudi Binladin Group. Mohammed Bin Laden came as a penniless immigrant but won the Saudi royal favour early on, which contributed to his rise. 

Mohammed Bin Laden founded the Saudi Binladin Group. Photo: Saudi Binladin Group website

Several important palaces, mosques and other buildings in Saudi Arabia were built by the Bin Ladens. Till date, they operate complex network ventures across the world from the US to Europe and elsewhere. But their family fortune and name were all teemed around one month - September. 

Osama was one of the 50-something children sired by Mohammed Bin Laden with his more than 20 wives. 

Osama Bin Laden was not among the most important or well-connected among Mohammed's children. His mother Alia Ghanem sought divorce from Mohammed after a few years and married another Saudi elite Mohammed al-Attas, with whom she had four more children. 

On September 3, 1967, Osama's father Mohammed Bin Laden died in a plane crash. Upon his death, his eldest son Salem Bin Laden took charge of the family business. 

Osama Bin Laden was disowned by his family before the 9/11 attack. Photo: Getty Images

Salem Bin Laden: He visited his half-brother Osama in the 1980s in Pakistan when he was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan alongside the Mujahideen and the US CIA. According to American journalist Steve Coll, who wrote for the New Yorker, Salem kept Osama in line. But after his death in 1988, Osama's sense of entitlement and ego burgeoned and he felt that he was more capable of leading his family's business. But Bakr Bin Laden, one of Salem's full brothers, took over. 

Osama Bin Laden was treated as a hero by Saudi Arabia when he fought the Soviets, but as he became more radicalised, denouncing the Saudi royal family for its close ties to the US, he quickly fell out of favour. Saudi Arabia stripped him of his citizenship due to his relentless criticism of the Saudi royals.

As Osama moved from Sudan and back to Afghanistan, Bakr Bin Laden also removed him as a shareholder in the family businesses. 

The current chairperson of Saudi Binladin Group, Bakr Bin Laden. Photo: Saudi Binladin Group website

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the US, the Bin Laden family and Saudi Arabia both denounced Osama's actions and tried to tell the world that the family had long disowned the black sheep of the clan. Many Bin Ladens in the US returned to Saudi Arabia fearing a backlash against them. And, in Saudi Arabia, their movement was restricted. They were closely monitored by the authorities and were not allowed to leave the Kingdom. 

Later, on September 11, 2015 (another eerie resemblance of date), a crane of the Bin Laden company fell in Mecca killing and injuring hundreds of people. Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) launched an investigation of the Saudi elite in the garb of removing corruption. Bakr was imprisoned and only let out after four years of detention. 

Now, the Bin Ladens can move freely within the Kingdom and also outside. But Osama's name continues to haunt the family, especially as Osama's son Hamza Bin Laden continues to carry his father's mantle for the Al-Qaeda. 

Are the Bin Ladens completely against Osama? It's hard to say. Reports say the family is divided among those who sympathised with Osama and those who did not. But families of the 9/11 victims have more than once claimed that Saudi Arabia was also responsible for the terrorist act.

Last updated: August 01, 2022 | 14:32
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