Osama bin Laden was a kind and loyal friend who honored the 9/11 hijackers and often cried in public, according to his longtime deputy who succeeded him as the leader of al-Qaeda.
In a 30-minute video posted on jihadist forums on Tuesday, Ayman al-Zawahiri praised what he called the "human side" of the Qaeda founder, who was killed in a U.S. commando raid in Pakistan earlier this year.
Most people think of bin Laden as “the lion of Islam... roaring that America will not dream of security and threatening America,” Zawahiri said, according to the Washington-based SITE intelligence group, which translated the video.
“However, people don’t know that this man was gentle, patient, and nice, with soft feelings and intense shyness.”
He describes how bin Laden used to speak of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks “with extreme loyalty,” mentioning them by name in a speech after escaping a NATO assault on his Afghan stronghold of Tora Bora in 2001.
“(Bin Laden) used to get sad in his heart if he felt that his brothers on the path of jihad were oppressed or didn’t get their due rights,” he said.
Zawahiri said bin Laden ̶ whose global network has killed thousands of people, including the 3,000 killed when planes slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001 ̶ often grew emotional around his followers.
“His eyes used to tear up when he gave speeches or spoke or supplicated. He was known for his ready tears and crying,” Zawahiri said.
He describes bin Laden as a kind father who took a special interest in his children’s education, and recounts a time during the Afghanistan war when he said farewell to them.
“It was a very emotional situation ̶ a father leaving his children not knowing when or where will he meet them, and they are leaving their father not knowing when will they meet him or where.”