Alia Ghanem, mother of Osama bin Laden, deceased al-Qaeda leader, says her son was radicalised in the university.
Speaking in an interview with UK Guardian, she said her eldest son was brainwashed into extremist ideology.
Ghanem said bin Laden was a shy, academically capable boy, who turned into a strong, pious figure while an economics student in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in his early 20s.
“The people at university changed him. He became a different man,” narrating how bin Laden had met Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood member, who became his spiritual adviser, at the university.
“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. He was very straight. Very good at school. He really liked to study.
“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.’’
She narrated how he kept his distance after he came under external influence.
Ghanem added that her son loved her so much.
“He was a very good kid and he loved me so much… my life was very difficult because he was so far away from me,” she said.
Pointing to a portrait of bin Laden’s father, she said “He raised Osama from the age of three. He was a good man, and he was good to Osama.”
Asked if she ever suspect he might become a “jihadist”, she said: “It never crossed my mind.”
On how she felt after realising he had been radicalised, she said? “We were extremely upset. I did not want any of this to happen. Why would he throw it all away like that?”
She said the family last saw bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1999, a year in which they visited him twice at his base just outside Kandahar.
“It was a place near the airport that they had captured from the Russians,” Ghanem said.
“He was very happy to receive us. He was showing us around every day we were there. He killed an animal and we had a feast, and he invited everyone.”
Hassan, one of the younger brothers of the deceased fighter, also joined the conversation.
He spoke of how in the early 1980s, bin laden travelled to Afghanistan to fight the Russian occupation.
“Everyone who met him in the early days respected him… At the start, we were very proud of him,” he said.
“Even the Saudi government would treat him in a very noble, respectful way. And then came Osama the mujahid.
“I am very proud of him in the sense that he was my oldest brother. He taught me a lot. But I don’t think I’m very proud of him as a man. He reached superstardom on a global stage, and it was all for nothing.”
al-Qaeda, the organisation he founded, claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Over 3,000 people were reportedly killed in the attacks.
Bin Laden was on the American Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) lists of 10 most wanted fugitives and most wanted terrorists for his alleged involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings.
From 2001 to 2011, bin Laden was a major target of the United States, as the FBI offered a $25 million bounty in their search for him. On May 2, 2011, bin Laden was shot and killed inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, where he lived with a local family from Waziristan, during a covert operation conducted by members US forces.