Image: Osama Bin Laden's fifth wife
Rehan Khan  /  EPA
A newspaper shows the passport picture of Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, Osama Bin Laden's fifth wife, who was shot in the leg during a raid in bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, hideout.
By
updated 5/11/2011 7:31:26 PM ET 2011-05-11T23:31:26

Osama bin Laden once gave his wives the option of leaving Afghanistan, but his young Yemeni bride was determined to stay and be "martyred" alongside him.

The pledge early in her marriage to the terror leader, recounted by her family, reflected the determination of Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, now 29, to rise above her divorced mother's social standing.

It came, they said, before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the decade-long manhunt that ended May 2 when U.S. commandos killed the al-Qaida leader in a raid on his compound in Pakistan.

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Amal al-Sada was shot in the leg as she rushed the Navy SEALs, according to U.S. officials. She is now in Pakistani custody, along with her daughter and two other bin Laden wives, according to Pakistani officials, who say they eventually will be repatriated.

Amal al-Sada's family told The Associated Press that they saw her only once after her marriage in late 1999 to the al-Qaida leader — during a monthlong visit to Afghanistan the following year. Communication was largely limited to messages delivered by couriers.

The interviews with the AP took place in the family's apartment in a two-story structure made of white, black and red rocks in Ibb, an agricultural town nestled in the mountains about 100 miles south of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Shops occupy the ground floor.

The family portrayed Amal al-Sada as a simple but determined and "courageous" young woman, religiously conservative but not fundamentalist. She was a high school dropout but was eager for knowledge and to realize something more than their modest life seemed to offer.

Amal al-Sada always told her friends and family that she wanted to "go down in history," recalled her cousin, Waleed Hashem Abdel-Fatah al-Sada.

'It's your future'
The door for fame opened in 1999 when her older sister's husband arrived at her uncle's home with a proposal. A Saudi named Osama bin Laden was looking for a bride.

Joining Dr. Mohammed Ghalib al-Baany — her sister Farah's husband — was a man named Rashad Mohammed Saeed, also known as Abu al-Fedaa. They were both friends of bin Laden, the family said.

Her uncle, Hashem al-Sada, recalled telling Amal al-Sada that he knew bin Laden was from a "devout and respectable family" in Saudi Arabia but didn't know them personally. He told the AP that he wasn't aware bin Laden "was wanted by the Americans" for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"The choice is yours," the uncle said he told her. "It's your future."

He said his niece's response was direct: "This is destiny from God, and I accept it."

That she hadn't met bin Laden, whose family was of Yemeni origin, was of little concern. Most marriages in Yemen are conducted either through intermediaries or through the selection of the prospective spouse through a picture.

This marriage was no different.

Weeks after the proposal, the uncle signed the marriage contract as her guardian and Abu al-Fedaa signed on behalf of bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader arranged for $5,000 to be paid to the bride's family, according to Yemeni traditions.

BIN LADEN
Rahimullah Yousafzai  /  AP
Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden in Dec. 24, 1998.

After two wedding parties, including one in a Sanaa hotel, Amal al-Sada left Yemen. Accompanied by Abu al-Fedaa, she flew to Dubai and then to Pakistan, before making the trip to Afghanistan to meet her bridegroom.

Her father, Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, said they later learned through a courier that she had given birth to a daughter named Safiya.

Amal's new life
Members of the family then went to Afghanistan to visit Amal al-Sada and the baby. Although they said the visit took place before the 9/11 attacks, this would be no easy trip.

They spent more than 20 days in a hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, under the watchful gaze of fighters loyal to bin Laden, according to the father. Among them were two men who had been on the same flight from Yemen.

One night, he said, a car took them to the Afghan border. Then came a six- or seven-hour ride in another vehicle until they reached a large tent guarded by mujahedeen. Inside the tent was an opening to an underground passageway. They walked in the passageway for about 30 minutes before emerging on the other side. Then another vehicle took them to bin Laden's cave, according to his account.

The father said he was greeted by his daughter. The following morning bin Laden arrived along with other al-Qaida leaders and Afghan tribal officials. There was a celebration honoring the Yemeni family's arrival, complete with a 21-gun salute and a lavish lunch attended by dozens of people.

Bin Laden was a "kind and noble" man, the father recalled. He described the al-Qaida leader as "easygoing and modest, giving you the feeling that he was sincere."

The father recalled bin Laden apologizing for the family's delay in Pakistan, saying it was a security matter out of his control.

On the final day of the visit, the cousin recalled bin Laden telling his two wives — the other one at the time was from Syria — that they could either stay with him in Afghanistan or return to their home countries.

He said Amal al-Sada quickly put the matter to rest.

"I want to be martyred with you and I won't leave as long as you're alive," he recalls her saying. Even when bin Laden told them that he was "subject at any moment to death," Amal al-Sada cut him short. "I've made my decision," she said.

Amal al-Sada's cousin recalled her describing bin Laden as a "noble" man who treated her well.

"'It's true that my life is one of moving between caves in Afghanistan, but despite the bitterness of this life ... I'm comfortable with Osama," she apparently told her father.

'Osama bin Laden did it'
Bin Laden is believed to have spent most of his time during this period in a house in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar but was known to have visited al-Qaida training camps in remote areas. He went into hiding after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Amal al-Sada's uncle said the terror leader complained about Arab leaders, particularly Sudanese President Oman al-Bashir, who he said "sold him for nothing," a reference to bin Laden being forced to leave Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996.

According to the uncle, bin Laden said he was the focus of several "assassination" attempts by Arab and U.S. intelligence services, including airstrikes, and that one mosque in which he was delivering a sermon was struck by a cruise missile.

"I was injured ... and a lot of people were killed," bin Laden reportedly said. "But I was spared from death because God wished it."

In August 1998 the U.S. fired cruise missiles at four militant training camps in Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden was believed to have been at one of the camps but left a few hours before the attack.

The cousin said bin Laden told the family during their visit to Afghanistan "of a big event that will occur in the world."

Later, when the cousin and Amal al-Sada's father were listening to news of the 9/11 attacks, the father said: "Osama bin Laden did it."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: US access to bin Laden's wives imminent

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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    Above: Slideshow (29) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - The compound
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    Slideshow (81) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - World reaction
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    Slideshow (81) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - World reaction
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