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Wives, mother may hold key to bin Laden's whereabouts

From David Ensor

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. and allied intelligence services are closely monitoring the women in Osama bin Laden's life for clues on his health and whereabouts.

Officials said his mother, Hamida al-Attas, lives quietly in Saudi Arabia. She has not been asked for a DNA sample to help the effort to determine whether her son is alive, but the Saudis may soon ask her to do so, an official said.

Bin Laden's mother -- sometimes called Alia -- got married after the death of his father, Mohammed bin Laden. The accused terrorist mastermind has been quoted in news reports as telling a friend that his mother and father were not married -- that it was "not a Koranic union."

Osama bin Laden has four wives, according to U.S. officials, and at least 24 children.

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His first wife, Najwan Ibrahim Ghanem, is Syrian and lives in Damascus, sources said. She is thought to be the mother of 11 of his children, they say. Bin Laden also has a Saudi wife, an Afghan wife and a young wife from Yemen.

The fourth wife, Amal al Sadah, is 19, U.S. officials said, and married bin Laden when she was 17. Sources speculate that she may be the bin Laden spouse identified with the initials A.S. in an interview published recently in the Saudi émigré magazine called Al Majalla.

The wife told the magazine bin Laden took tranquilizers to help him sleep, suffered from kidney pain and "used to talk to me that he has a great project in mind and that he has committed himself to face them [the United States and Israel]."

She said, "I feel inside me that he is still alive and that if he were dead the whole world would know because the death of Osama cannot be concealed."

The magazine published a photograph of part of the wife's identification card but did not say where or when the interview was conducted.

Bin Laden also has an ex-wife whom he divorced to marry one of the other four, U.S. officials say.




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