Long-time bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, now al-Qaida’s new leader, related these and other memories in a video posted on jihadist websites.
Zawahri said he wants “to show the human side” of bin Laden’s life. In doing so, he is likely trying to boost his own popularity by emphasising his closeness to the terror group’s former leader.
Bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals in May during a raid in Pakistan. Zawahri assumed control of al-Qaida shortly after.
Throughout the 30-minute video — reportedly the first in a series — Zawahri emphasises the “nobility” of bin Laden’s character, as well as his own proximity to him.
“People don’t know that this man was tender, gentle, kind, with refined feelings, even when life was hard,” Zawahri said. “We never saw a man like him.”
He told of how bin Laden remembered al-Qaida members who died fighting “jihad”, or “holy war”. He also gave special mention to the hijackers who carried out the terror attacks of September 11.
“The sheikh would remember with goodness and gratitude and be moved by the memory of the 19 brothers who attacked the idol of our age, America — the Pentagon, the headquarters of its military power, and New York, the symbol of its economic power,” he said. “He would remember these brothers with extreme fidelity.”
He recalled when he and bin Laden were hiding in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora, saying bin Laden wrote death certificates for each of the hijacker, fearing he would be killed “without remembering these heroic martyrs”.
He also told of bin Laden’s reaction when Zawahri got the news some members of his family had been killed. Bin Laden came to him with tears in his eyes and hugged him.
To conclude the video, Zawahri recalled when the two men and one of bin Laden’s sons were driving a lorry in the dark in Afghanistan and decided to split up for safety. Bin Laden went to say goodbye to his son, not knowing when, or if, he would see him again, Zawahri said.
“He told him, ‘My son, we are keeping our oath, fighting jihad in the path of Allah’,” Zawahri said.