The three widows of slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and other family members arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday after being expelled from Pakistan, a Yemeni non-government group head told AFP.
“The Yemeni woman has arrived in Saudi Arabia along with other members of the Bin Laden family, his children and her brother who was looking after her case in Pakistan,” Mohammed Naji Allaw of the NGO Hood said.
So far there has been no confirmation of their arrival from Saudi Arabia, which has kept total silence on the issue. The other two widows are Saudis.
At around midnight Pakistan time on Thursday night, a minivan whisked the 9/11 mastermind’s relatives from the Islamabad house where they had been in detention to the city’s airport.
They then left for the Gulf kingdom on a specially chartered flight just before 2:00 am (2100 GMT Thursday).
“We have begun making representations for her return to Yemen,” Allaw said of Bin Laden’s Yemeni widow Amal, adding that his information on their arrival came from Zakaria Abdulfattah al-Sadaa, her brother.
Hood, which deals with human rights cases in Yemen, especially those concerning children, has been tasked by the widow’s brother with looking after her case.
Sadaa went to Pakistan to personally oversee the deportation of his 30-year-old sister — bin Laden’s youngest and reportedly favourite wife — and her five children.
The family’s lawyer Atif Ali Khan last week said Bin Laden’s Yemeni widow and her children may be sent to Yemen after Saudi Arabia.
A Pakistani interior ministry spokesman said deportation orders were issued for 14 Bin Laden relatives to Saudi Arabia, described as “the country of their choice,” though the family was previously thought to number 12 — three widows, eight children and one grandchild.
After being held for 10 months, the widows and two of Bin Laden’s older daughters were sentenced by a Pakistani court to 45 days’ detention in their Islamabad house on charges of illegal entry and residency and ordered to be deported.
They were originally supposed to be deported after completing their sentence last week but the process dragged on — officially because legal formalities were not complete but amid suggestions of Saudi reluctance to accept such a notorious family.
Then on Thursday, a Pakistani security official said “some development happened late in the evening” allowing them to be expelled.
Their deportation comes nearly a year after the Al-Qaeda leader was killed in a US raid, ending a chapter that Islamabad will be glad to put behind it.
Bin Laden’s three widows and their children were held by the Pakistani authorities after the US special forces raid that killed the Saudi terror chief in the garrison town of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, last May 2.
Washington and Islamabad are now trying to patch up a relationship soured by the revelation that the world’s most wanted man had lived for years a mere stone’s throw from Pakistan’s elite military academy.
Pakistani authorities have already demolished the Abbottabad house.
After fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Bin Laden moved his family around Pakistan before settling in a three-storey house inside a walled compound in the garrison town in 2005.
Amal Abdulfattah told Pakistani interrogators that her husband fathered four children while in Pakistan, according to a police report seen by AFP last month.
Analyst Hasan Askari said that by sending the family to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan might hope to keep any awkward secrets about their stay under wraps.
“One worry would be that one of the wives, especially the younger one, might decide to write a book and Pakistan would not be happy because she would talk about her stay in Pakistan,” he said.
“If she writes the story and sells it to a European or American publisher it will be a very saleable commodity, but the Saudis can keep everything under a lid.”