The late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a "very good" boy, but it was in college that he turned down the path of violent jihad, according to bin Laden's mother, Alia Ghanem.
Ghanem, who had not spoken publicly about her infamous son, told The Guardian for a new report that the fateful shift came at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
"The people at university changed him," Ghanem is quoted as saying. "He became a different man... 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.
The Guardian said the group Ghanem was describing included Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who later became bin Laden's "spiritual advisor."
Even when bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan to support the local mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s, Ghanem said it "never crossed [her] mind" that her son would take up arms, and she said she was "extremely upset" when she found out.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, former longtime head of Saudi intelligence, said it was bin Laden's experience in Afghanistan that hardened his new radical beliefs.
“He developed a more political attitude from 1990. He wanted to evict the communists and South Yemeni Marxists from Yemen. I received him, and told him it was better that he did not get involved," he said.
Of course, his warnings went unheeded, and bin Laden eventually turned his Islamist ire on the United States.
His family may have seen the transformation in bin Laden, but one of his half-brothers, Ahmad, told The Guardian that to this day, their mother cannot bring herself to admit who he had become on 9/11.
"She loved him so much and refuses to blame him," Ahmad said. "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."
Read the Full Story: My Son, Osama: The al-Qaida Leader’s Mother Speaks for the First Time (The Guardian)
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