Bin Laden family condemns killing, while wife says one son escaped

Zachary Roth
May 11, 2011

Osama bin Laden's family is taking center stage in the fallout over his death.

Yesterday, the al Qaeda leader's sons denounced what they called their father's "arbitrary killing." Meanwhile, Pakistani officials believe one of bin Laden's sons--perhaps one known as "the Crown Prince of Terror"--may be missing after escaping from the U.S. raid.

In a statement, bin Laden's sons questioned why their father "was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that the truth is revealed to the people of the world." It is not known how many of bin Laden's numerous sons (there are believed to be as many as 17) endorsed the statement.

"We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems," the statement continued, adding that "justice must be seen to be done."

President Obama has rejected suggestions that the killing was improper, telling "60 Minutes" that anyone who questioned whether bin Laden deserved his fate "needs to have their head examined."

The sons' statement, which also called for bin Laden's three wives and several children to be released from custody, is said to have been prepared at the direction of Omar bin Laden, 30.

Omar bin Laden, a metals trader who has been living in Cairo, appears at pains to disassociate himself from his father's belief in political violence. "We want to remind the world that Omar bin Laden, the fourth-born son of our father, always disagreed with our father regarding any violence and always sent messages to our father, that he must change his ways and that no civilians should be attacked under any circumstances," the statement said.

It continued: "Despite the difficulty of publicly disagreeing with our father, he never hesitated to condemn any violent attacks made by anyone, and expressed sorrow for the victims of any and all attacks."

In a separate statement posted on a jihadist website yesterday, the sons accused President Obama of ordering "a criminal mission" that "obliterated an entire defenseless family ... contrary to the most basic human sentiment."

And they objected to the decision to bury their father at sea, which some Islamic scholars also have questioned. "It is unacceptable--humanely and religiously--to dispose of a person with such importance and status among his people, by throwing his body into the sea in that way, which demeans and humiliates his family and his supporters and which challenges religious provisions and feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims," the statement read.

Separately, ABC News reports that one of bin Laden's wives, who was captured in the U.S. raid, has told Pakistani investigators that one of the terror leader's sons escaped and is missing. Pakistani officials are said to have done a head count, and to believe it's true, though U.S. officials say they're confident no one escaped during or after the raid.

"Out of 21, one person is not accounted for," a Pakistani intelligence official told ABC. "I believe that's the son."

Pakistani investigators are probing whether the son could be 22-year-old Hamza bin Laden, known as "The Crown Prince of Terror." Hamza was credited with writing a poem praising the 2005 London bombings, and was accused by Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto of attempting to assassinate her. Bhutto was killed by Islamic extremists in 2007.

Bin Laden's wives are currently being questioned by Pakistani investigators in a safe house. It's not clear if U.S. officials will be given the chance to question them directly.

(Omar bin Laden, right, and his British-born wife Jane Felix-Brown, now known as Zaina Alsabah, during a 2008 interview with The Associated Press in Cairo, Egypt. AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)