Son-in-law tells of Bin Laden’s hopes and fears

OSAMA Bin Laden spent the hours after the 11 September, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington in an Afghanistan cave fretting over how America would react, his former spokesman has revealed.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. Picture: AP

The al-Qaeda leader’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, told a US court Bin Laden asked him hours after the attacks what he thought would happen next.

“Politically, I said, America, if it was proven that you were the one who did this, will not settle until it accomplishes two things: to kill you and topple the state of the Taleban,” Abu Ghaith said he told him.

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Bin Laden responded: “You’re being too pessimistic.”

Abu Ghaith said he had watched the news unfold in a house in Kabul. Saudi Arabian-born Bin Laden sent a messenger to fetch him.

On his arrival at his mountain cave, Bin Laden told him: “We are the ones who did it.”

He claimed he had met Bin Laden only six or seven times before being brought to the cave.

Abu Ghaith, 48, a former teacher and preacher, was captured in Jordan last year. He now faces charges in a Manhattan court of conspiring to kill US citizens and of being a spokesman for al-Qaeda.

He featured in post-9/11 videos railing against the US which also showed a hijacked plane hitting the World Trade Centre. In one video, he raged: “The storm of airplanes will not abate.”

Questioned by defence lawyer Stanley Cohen and assistant attorney Michael Ferrara, Abu Ghaith said Bin Laden seemed worried on the night of the attacks. The next morning Bin Laden invited him to join him at breakfast with al-Qaeda military leader Abu Hafs al-Masri and current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. He said Bin Laden told him: “Now, after these events … it’s a no-brainer to predict what is going to happen. And I want to deliver a message to the world. I want you to deliver that message.”

Within two hours, the four men were posing in front of a rocky backdrop as Abu Ghaith spoke using what he said were “bullet points” provided by Bin Laden that mixed verses from the Koran with justification for terror attacks.

The defence has never disputed Abu Ghaith associated with Bin Laden after 9/11, but claims he had no role in plotting attacks. On cross-examination, though, Abu Ghaith – who is the last witness in his own defence – admitted that he sent his pregnant wife, six daughters and a son to Kuwait while he went to Afghanistan on 7 September, 2001, after hearing from al-Qaeda sources that something big was going to happen soon.

He said he first met Bin Laden, who was living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he summoned him in June 2001 after hearing he was a preacher from Kuwait. Abu Ghaith took Bin Laden’s daughter as an additional wife years after 9/11.

He insists that his videotaped sermons were religious and meant to encourage Muslims to fight oppression not recruit terrorists, though they were based on points made by Bin Laden.

Abu Ghaith has denied having prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks or the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Briton Richard Reid in December 2001.

The trial continues.