Osama bin Laden's Mother Alia Ghanem Speaks out About Son 7 Years After His Death

Alia Ghanem, the mother of Osama bin Laden, spoke out about her son for the first time in an interview with The Guardian, published Friday. In it, she calls her notorious son a "very good kid."

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Ghanem, who sat beside surviving sons Ahmad and Hassan and second husband Mohammad al-Attas, described bin Laden as a son who lost his way.

"My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me," she told The Guardian. "He was a very good kid and he loved me so much."

She also said, while pointing to al-Attas, "He raised Osama from the age of 3. He was a good man, and he was good to Osama."

According to The Guardian, the bin Ladens remain a wealthy and important family in Saudi Arabia, and they needed permission from Saudi Arabia's leadership to speak with Ghanem. For the Saudis, they hope to show that bin Laden was an outcast, with no support from the government to carry out terrorist attacks. Critics have long accused Saudi Arabia of supporting him, and 15 of the 19 Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers were from the country. However, the Saudi government has denied this.

Ghanem blamed the people bin Laden met while he attended King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah in his early 20s. While studying there, he met Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who would become bin Laden's spiritual advisor.

"The people at university changed him. He became a different man," Ghanem said of her son. "He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause. I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much."

In the 1980s, bin Laden left for Afghanistan, where he joined fight against the Soviet Union. Ghanem said he spent "all his money on Afghanistan," but did not believe her son would become a radicalized jihadist.

The family said the last time they saw bin Laden was in 1999. He would go on to direct the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. bin Laden was on the run for almost nine years, until he was killed in a U.S. raid on a his compound in Pakistan in 2011.

Ahmad told The Guardian that his mother cannot be an objective witness when it comes to talking about bin Laden.

"It has been 17 years now [since 9/11] and she remains in denial about Osama," Ahmad said. "She loved him so much and refuses to blame him. Instead, she blames those around him. She only knows the good boy side, the side we all saw. She never got to know the jihadist side."

At least one member of the family is still considered a "global terrorist" by the U.S. government, bin Laden's youngest son, Hazma, 29. He is believed to be in Afghanistan and supported by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new leader of al-Qaida.

"We thought everyone was over this," Hassan told The Guardian. "Then the next thing I knew, Hamza was saying, 'I am going to avenge my father.' I don't want to go through that again. If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him, 'God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don't retake the steps of your father. You are entering horrible parts of your soul.'"

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