Image: Osama Bin Laden killed in an operation in Pakistan
T. Mughal  /  EPA
Osama bin Laden lived with one of his wives and several of his children in this compound.
msnbc.com
updated 5/4/2011 5:47:06 PM ET 2011-05-04T21:47:06

At first the White House said she was used by Osama bin Laden as a human shield and shot dead by U.S. forces who stormed his compound. Then it was said that she was shot in the leg, but not killed, when she “rushed” one of the Navy SEALs.

However it went down, U.S. investigators may have a difficult time getting a woman in the compound identified as one of bin Laden’s wives to tell what she knows about the last decade of life of the most-wanted al-Qaida leader and alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

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Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, also known as Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, was the youngest of bin Laden’s five wives. Media reports put her age at 27 or 29 — roughly half the age of the 54-year-old bin Laden.

Amal, a Yemeni native, was identified by a passport that U.S. forces found inside the walled bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, not far from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, according to ABC News.

She was being treated for a leg wound at a hospital in Pakistan, where authorities have reportedly refused an American request to interrogate her.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters that the wife and up to eight of bin Laden's children who were also in custody will be questioned by Pakistani officials and then probably turned over to their countries of origin, and not the United States, in accordance with Pakistani law.

The American strike team had reportedly intended to take her and the children but abandoned the plan after a U.S. transport helicopter malfunctioned or crashed. The Pakistani official told Reuters there was not enough room for the group on the other helicopters.

Amal and bin Laden and their three children lived on the second and third floors of the compound's main house, according to ABC News. She was in the room when the Navy SEALs stormed in and fired the shots that killed bin Laden.

She "rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg, but not killed," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday, reversing an earlier report that she died being used as a human shield in the shooting.

Amal was bin Laden's fifth wife and the only one left living with him at the compound. Her family "gifted" her to him while in her late teens in 2000 — a year before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Even at her young age she was religious and spiritual enough and believed in the things that bin Laden — a very religious, pious and spiritual man — believed in,” Sheikh Rashad Mohammed Saeed Ismael, a bin Laden aide who helped arrange the matchmaking, told The Sunday Times of London in an article last year.

“Coming from a modest Yemeni family, she could live with him the tough life in mountain caves and be someone he could mold. She was also someone who did not mind marrying a man as old as her father, and truly believed that being a dutiful and obedient wife to her husband would grant her a place in heaven,” said the aide, also called Abu al-Fida.

The girl, daughter of a civil servant, lived in al-Fida's hometown of Ibb in southwest Yemen. Al-Fida met with her to get her consent, according to the Times account.

“I told her: You know of bin Laden, who gave away his palaces and fortune to wage jihad on behalf of Muslims. He lives in Afghanistan, sometimes in fear for his life, sometimes secured; sometimes in a city and a house, at other times in a mountain and a cave on the run.”

After she consented, her father gave al-Fida permission to take her to Afghanistan to be wed. In return, bin Laden gave his new bride's family a “generous” sum of money to ensure they were comfortable, according to the article.

The bin Laden family tree

“Although the marriage seems to have been a political arrangement between bin Laden and an important Yemeni tribe, meant to boost al-Qaeda recruitment in Yemen, bin Laden’s other wives were upset, and even his mother chastised him,” author Lawrence Wright wrote in his book "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11."

It's unclear if Amal has been with bin Laden continuously since their wedding or when she moved into the Pakistan compound.

In a 2002 interview with the London-based Arabic-language weekly Al-Majallah, a bin Laden wife identified only  as "A.S." — Amal al-Sadah's initials — offered some insight into her husband's personal life in hiding. She said he suffered from kidney and stomach ailments, needed pills to sleep and considered the U.S. his "number one enemy," according to a BBC account of the interview.

She said her husband would take turns visiting each of his wives.

"Each wife lived in her own house. There were two wives in Kandahar, each with her own house. The third wife had a house in Kabul, and the fourth in the Tora Bora mountains," wife A.S. said. "He used to come to me once a week. His wives met only once every month or two when he came to us or sent one of his sons to take us to one of the others' houses."

She also said her husband would often come home late "and lie down alone on his bed for long hours."

"He did not like anybody to talk to him. He became angry if I tried to talk to him and I would therefore leave him alone," she said.

"He used to sit and think for a long time and sleep very late. He did not sleep for more than two or three hours at a time. Though he was beside me, I sometimes felt lonely."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Curious neighbors peer into bin Laden compound

  1. Closed captioning of: Curious neighbors peer into bin Laden compound

    >> let's go to the scene of the raid in pakistan where high level officials arrived at the compound north of islamabad. tonight, there are more pictures from inside the hideout where the s.e.a.l.s made the raid that killed osama bin laden . stephanie gosk is there for us tonight.

    >> reporter: a look inside the hideout. ransacked and definitely lot luxurious. everyday belongings mixed in with the aftermath of a bloody struggle, including a yemeni passport apparently belonging to bin laden 's fifth and youngest wife. this video was shot not long after the precision assault sunday by u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s. what happened in this house that night and the years leading up to it has captivated the world and shocked the people who actually live here. today, a homeowner next door briefly gave access to his roofp roofptop. dozens of neighbors climbed up, eager to see what they could. this is one of the best views we have had of the compound. the house is large, but really, in comparison to the other houses in the neighborhood, it's not that big. there's a rumor that security forces are eventually going to destroy it. residents are sharing what they rer78 of two brothers, owners of the house. they used to come to these small shops buying milk and pepsi, often in bulk. we now know one of them was the infamous courier faollowed for years. this man remembered seeing the brothers in town but never the wives.

    >> did the women ever and out of the house?

    >> no, no women. you don't see here the women.

    >> reporter: many people here don't believe bin laden was killed. they don't even believe he was here. does anyone here believe that osama bin laden was in that house? nobody? overhead today, helicopters flew by. not a rare sight in a military town, but when they heard the sound of choppers late sunday night, it didn't sound right. he started tweeting, having no idea what was really happening. helicopter hof eer hovering over aboughta bod at 1:00 a.m . is a rare event. go away. i hope it's not the start of something nasty. he wads the only person reporting the capture of bin laden as it happened. how many followers did you have on twitter on that moment?

    >> almost 800, 900.

    >> now how many do you have?

    >> more than 100,000.

    >> reporter: an instant internet celebrity who moved his family here from lahore last year to escape the terrorists.

    >> i came here to escape all the bombings and now i find myself living in the same town as him.

    >> a small town once far removed from the fight on terrorism. now the site of one of its most important battles. nbc news pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski reports that u.s. officials are providing a clearing picture of the firefight that happened here. it wasn't an intense back and forth but mostly one-sided. mostly the s.e.a.l.s doing the shooting. a proscission-clearing operation.

Photos: The compound

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  1. Pakistani boys while demolition takes place on the compound where Osama bin Laden was slain in 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on Feb. 26, 2012.

    More photos from Abbottabad one year after Osama bin Laden (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. An aerial view shows the residential area of Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. commandos. (Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A general view of the town of Abbottabad, May 6. Bin Laden was living in a large house close to a military academy in this garrison town, a two-and-a-half hour-drive from the capital, Islamabad. (Khaqan Khawer / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami rally to condemn the killing of bin Laden, in Abbottabad on May 6. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A Pakistani woman photographs her daughter on May , at a gate of the compound where bin Laden was caught and killed. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. School girls pass by armed Pakistani policemen guarding the sealed entrance to the compound in Abbottabad, May 5, in which bin Laden had been living. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Part of a damaged helicopter rests in the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed bin Laden, May 2, in a photo made available on May 4. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Boys herd sheep past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad May 5. (Akhtar Soomro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pakistani security officials arrive at the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad on Wednesday, May 4. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Local residents gather outside a burned section of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Pakistani police officer gestures at a checkpoint along a road leading to a house where bin Laden was captured and killed in Abbottabad. Area residents were still confused and suspicious about bin Laden's death, which took place before dawn on Monday. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pakistani children look out from a high vantage point at bin Laden's compound on Tuesday, May 3. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Pakistan army troops remove canvas screens from outside the compound's house. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Neighbors and news media gather around the compound, right, after authorities ease security around the property. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A satellite image, taken June 15, 2005, shows the Abbottabad compound, center, where bin Laden was killed in on Monday. (DigitalGlobe via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Pakistani soldier secures the compound. (T. Mughal / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The compound is seen in flames after it was attacked early May 2 in this still image taken from cellphone video footage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Part of a damaged U.S. MH-60 helicopter lies the compound. The helicopter was destroyed by U.S. forces after a mechanical failure left it unable to take off. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A still image from video obtained by ABC News shows blood stains in the interior of the house where bin Laden was killed. (ABC News via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Aerial views released by the Department of Defense show the area in Abbottabad in 2004, left, before the house was built, and in 2011, right. (Department of Defense via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A graphic released by the Department of Defense shows the compound where bin Laden was killed. (Department of Defense via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Pakistani soldiers and police officers patrol near the house, background, where bin Laden had lived. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The hideout of bin Laden is seen the day after his death. (Farooq Naeem / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Students look toward the compound from a nearby religious school in Abbottabad. (Faisal Mahmood / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pakistani security officials survey the walls of the compound where bin Laden was killed. The outer walls were between 10 and 18 feet high. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Pakistani soldiers stand guard near the compound May 2. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Boys collect pieces of metal from a wheat field outside bin Laden's house, seen in the background, on May 3. People showed off small parts of what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter that the U.S. says malfunctioned and was blown up by the American team as it retreated. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Pakistani security officials stand guard at the main entrance to the compound on May 3. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. An image from video seized from the walled compound of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, and released by the U.S. Department of Defense, shows Osama bin Laden watching TV. He is said to have spent his last weeks in a house divided, amid wives riven by suspicions. On the top floor, sharing his bedroom, was his youngest wife and favorite. The trouble came when his eldest wife showed up and moved into the bedroom on the floor below. (Department of Defense via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (29) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - The compound
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    Slideshow (81) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - World reaction
  4. Image:
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    Slideshow (29) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - The compound
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Timeline: A timeline of Osama bin Laden's life

Considered enemy No. 1 by the U.S., the Saudi millionaire is the perpetrator behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Click on key dates to learn more about the founder of al-Qaida, an international terror network.

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