Osama 'saved his money for jihad'

Jun 04, 2012, 07:50 IST | Agencies

New al-Qaeda chief reveals bin Laden did not splurge on luxuries but had sheep ready for slaughter for visitors

Osama bin Laden spent all his personal wealth on jihad, stinting on meat and electricity as luxuries so he could save his money to help fund terror attacks, according to recollections by his deputy and successor posted online late on Saturday.  Yet, in the second of his ‘Days With the Imam’ series of videos, Ayman al-Zawahiri said Bin Laden would pay readily for hospitality for his guests — although the former al-Qaeda leader lived mostly on bread and vegetables, he once invested in an entire herd of sheep to slaughter in case visitors came by. Zawahiri, who became head of al-Qaeda after Bin Laden was killed in a US raid last year, spoke conversationally while dressed in a white robe and turban. Bin Laden was born to a wealthy family, but ran into financial troubles after he was pushed out of Sudan in 1996, Zawahiri said.

Simple living: Ayman al-Zawahiri claims that Osama bin Laden lived mostly on bread and vegetables. File Pic/Getty Images

Lived on bread
Shortly thereafter, he said, Bin Laden spent $50,000 (Rs 27 lakh) to help finance the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania at a time when he only had $55,000 (Rs 30 lakh) to his name. Those bombings killed 224 people. Bin Laden’s personal wealth also helped finance the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. “He is well-known for living austerely but he spent all his money for jihad,” Zawahiri said. “If you enter his house you would find simple furniture … and if we were invited to eat, he offered us what was available in his house, bread and vegetables.” But the terror leader was “generous to his guests by slaughtering sheep for them and because of continuous visitors, he once bought a herd of sheep so that he would be always ready for them.”

No to luxury
Zawahiri said Bin Laden used to encourage the mujahideen — holy warriors — to live without electricity, which he considered a luxury. “Luxury is the enemy of jihad and if the mujahideen were brought up to live in asceticism, they would tolerate the burden of jihad,” Zawahiri quoted Bin Laden as saying.  Zawahiri said Bin Laden was also generous to his bodyguards, who were devoted to him. In the first video in the series, posted on jihadist websites in November, Zawahiri said he wanted to show Bin Laden’s ‘human side’. He described a sensitive man who cried when his friends lost family members, remained close to his children despite the hard life of an international jihadist, and fondly remembered — by name — the 19 men who carried out the deadliest terrorist attack ever on US soil. 

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