Childhood friend says Saudi-based family hopes there will be no violent responses to killing
Osama bin Laden’s family hopes the killing of the al-Qaeda leader won’t spark retaliation by his group or its allies, according to Khaled Batarfi, a childhood friend who spoke with at least one immediate family member.
“The general mood in the family is that this was a page of history that’s closed and that family members hope there will be no violent responses,” Batarfi said in a telephone interview today from the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
Bin Laden was killed in a firefight with US commandos who raided the compound where he was staying in Abbottabad, an affluent suburb of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, US administration officials told reporters.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Monday in a statement sent to agency employees that “the terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must - and will - remain vigilant and resolute.”
Batarfi and bin Laden grew up as neighbors in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Riyadh, the capital. When he was young, Bin Laden would take friends for joyrides in a white Chrysler to play soccer, have picnics and sometimes contests to test their knowledge of Islam, Batarfi said.
Batarfi said he last saw bin Laden in 1990 and he “never condoned his philosophy.” He declined to say which family members he spoke to out of respect for their privacy.
“I was shocked when I heard the news today,” said Batarfi, a communications professor at King Abdulaziz University. “This is a page that should be closed.”
Bin Laden’s family has remained largely silent since Sept. 11, 2001. A telephone message left at the office of the family’s construction company in Jeddah wasn’t returned.
The bin Laden family is one of the most prominent in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden’s father, Muhammad, helped found Saudi Binladin Group, a family construction business, in 1931.
The business became one of the kingdom’s largest construction companies, building roads and bridges, renovating mosques in Mecca and Medina and expanding into real estate, textiles, telecommunications and distribution.