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Investigating the Bin Laden Family’s Safe Havens

1:00 PM, Mar 12, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The story of Saad bin Laden, one of Osama’s sons, provides a good example.

The Treasury Department reported in January 2009 that Saad “has been involved in al Qaeda activities.” Treasury’s designation continued: “For example, in late 2001, Saad facilitated the travel of Osama bin Laden's family members from Afghanistan to Iran. Saad made key decisions for al Qaeda and was part of a small group of al Qaeda members that was involved in managing the terrorist organization from Iran.” 

Saad was placed under house arrest by the Iranians in 2003 – a year and a half after he and other bin Laden family members first relocated to Iran. Before his alleged detention, Saad was connected to international terrorist plots, including the May 2003 Riyadh bombings, which were reportedly ordered by al Qaeda operatives from inside Iran. Like Saber, Saad (whose mother is another of bin Laden’s wives) left Iran in 2008. He was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2009.

Therefore, a proper investigation of bin Laden’s journey to Abbottabad would include not only the al Qaeda master’s ties to Pakistani officials, but also his ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other members of Iran’s military and intelligence establishment.   

Just as it is no accident that Osama bin Laden ended up in Abbottabad, it was no accident that he sent so many close relatives to Iran. Once there, the IRGC allowed bin Laden’s family members, including those involved in al Qaeda’s plotting, to escape justice.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  

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