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LADEN KIN FLOWN BACK TO SAUDI ARABIA
Cullen, Globe Staff, Date: September 20, 2001
Page: A29, Section:
Boston-area relatives of Osama bin Laden, the
Saudi-born terrorist who stands accused of masterminding last week's
suicide hijackings, flew back to Saudi Arabia in the last two days because
of concerns for their safety, according to the Saudi government.
Dozens of Saudi citizens were
flown back to Saudi Arabia at their government's expense, while the bin
Ladens are believed to have paid their own way, according to a Saudi
diplomat. All of those who took up the Saudi government's offer to fly home
were reportedly questioned by the FBI before being allowed to board the
flights. A Saudi diplomat told The Boston Globe that the relatives of bin
Laden had been advised by both the Saudi government and the FBI to return
to Saudi Arabia at least temporarily for their own safety.
All of Osama bin Laden's relatives, members of one of Saudi Arabia's
richest families, have publicly disowned him and renounced his extremist
views and his Al Qaeda terror organization, which advocates the killing of
Americans in a jihad, or holy war.
In Washington last night, an FBI spokesman refused to confirm or deny that
the FBI approved the Saudi government's repatriation program or had advised
the bin Ladens to return to Saudi Arabia. Nor would the spokesman say if
the FBI was interviewing anyone who took part in it to rule them out as
suspects in the biggest criminal investigation in US history.
Special Agent Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the Boston FBI office,
also declined to comment.
It was unclear how many members of bin Laden's family flew home over the
last two days, but aviation sources said a flight that left Logan on
Tuesday night contained only five passengers, all of whom were said to
be members of bin Laden's family.
A Saudi government spokesman said the plane used by the bin Ladens was
privately chartered by the family. Sources familiar with that plane said it
was a Boeing 727 that had been reconfigured so that it had only about 30
A second flight, paid for by the Saudi government, was scheduled to depart
Logan last night, after making stops in other cities, including Los Angeles
A Saudi government spokesman said that, as of yesterday afternoon, more
than 20 Saudi citizens had accepted the offer for a free trip home, but he
said the number could grow. A source at Logan said that the FBI was
"all over these planes" prior to takeoff, but the Saudi
government said no one has been refused permission by the FBI to return to
While the FBI has repeatedly searched Flagship Wharf, the Charlestown
condominium complex where one of bin Laden's brothers, Mohammaed, owns six
luxury apartments, and where some of the relatives live, a Saudi diplomat
yesterday said there is no indication that bin Laden's relatives are
The diplomat, who spoke from the Saudi Embassy in Washington on the
condition he was not named, said the FBI would not have allowed the
relatives to leave the United States if there was any evidence that would
link them to the plot.
Barry Scheer, a lawyer for Mohammaed M. bin Laden, said he does not know
how many members of the family left the Boston area.
Osama bin Laden has 51 siblings and is the scion of a large, wealthy family
whose father was a favored contractor for the Saudi royal family. Several
of Osama's relatives have resided on and off in Boston during the past
After Osama bin Laden was implicated last year in the attack on the USS
Cole in Yemen that left 17 sailors dead, the FBI searched some of Mohammaed
M. bin Laden's condo units at Flagship Wharf. After last Tuesday's suicide
hijackings, the FBI returned to the Charlestown complex, and began asking
questions about the relatives.
A Saudi government spokesman said the FBI interest in the bin Laden
relatives was "routine," and was aimed at ruling them out as
suspects rather than the product of any evidence suggesting their
Another brother of bin Laden, Abdullah M. bin Laden, is a 1994 graduate of
Harvard Law School and lives in Cambridge. He did not return telephone
messages left at his home.
There are several bin Laden relatives attending college in Boston and other
parts of New England. Earlier this week, Faisal bin Laden, Osama bin
Laden's nephew, left the University of New Hampshire, where he is a freshman.
But he told friends he planned to return to the Durham campus, sources
The Saudi government is worried about an anti-Arab backlash against its
citizens. Those concerns are heightened because many of the 19 hijackers
used either Saudi passports or affiliations with the Saudi national
airline, Saudi Arabian Airlines, to gain entry to the United States and
access to the flight schools.
The Saudi government, one of the staunchest Arab allies of the United
States, stopped sending its citizens to the United States for medical
treatment after last week's attack. One diplomat said a Saudi citizen with
the same name as one of the hijackers called him in tears from his hospital
bed yesterday, saying he feared for his life.
"It's terribly sad," the diplomat said.
The Saudi diplomat said his government had advised Saudi citizens,
including some 3,000 students attending universities and medical schools
around the United States, to be vigilant against possible retaliatory
A 20-year-old Saudi man who is studying at Boston University was stabbed
early Sunday morning outside a Back Bay nightclub, Club Nicole, at the Back
Bay Hilton. His wounds were not life-threatening, police said. Police are
trying to determine whether the attack was motivated because of the
The Saudi diplomat said that while his government and the FBI had advised
the bin Ladens to return home for their safety, they had not recommended
that other Saudis return home.
"We have advised our citizens to be careful, but to go on with their
lives," he said. "We told them to use common sense, to avoid
bars. Don't go to areas where people might get rowdy."
He said the Boston knife attack was the only case the embassy knows of
violence directed at Saudis, but there have been reports of verbal assaults
across the nation.
In addition, the Saudi diplomat said three Saudi citizens were briefly
detained last week after a high-profile storming of a hotel room at the
Copley Place Westin Hotel. He said police went to the hotel after one of
the Saudis used a credit card to rent a car at the hotel. The name on the
card was Attar, which was similar to the name of Mohamed Atta, the man who
authorities believe was the ringleader of the Boston hijackers.
The three Saudis, who were released after the FBI interviewed them, have
retained a lawyer and are well-connected: They are relatives of the Saudi
health minister and the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, according
to a Saudi diplomat.
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