Bin Laden's daughter "in Saudi embassy in Tehran"

Iran Materials 25 December 2009 02:09 (UTC +04:00)

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran has informed the Iranian authorities that one of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's daughters is in the embassy and wants to leave the country, Iran's foreign minister said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Manouchehr Mottaki
spoke a day after Britain's Times newspaper reported that some of bin Laden's closest relatives, including children, were living in a secret compound in Iran.

A daughter called Iman had recently escaped during a rare trip outside the compound and made her way to the Saudi Arabian embassy, the Times said. She is now living there while seeking permission to leave Iran, it said.

"We were informed by the Saudi Arabian embassy ... some time ago that one of bin Laden's daughters is in the Saudi embassy in Tehran," Mottaki said on state television.

"We do not know how the individual ... entered the Saudi embassy and Iran in the first place. Her real identity is not yet clear to us," he said. "Upon determination of her real identity she will be able to leave Iran with proper permits."

Mottaki made no reference to any other relatives of bin Laden living in Iran.

The Times said the group included a wife and children who disappeared from bin Laden's Afghan camp at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

It said other relatives found out last month that the group, including one of bin Laden's wives, six of his children and 11 of his grandchildren had been kept in a high-security compound outside Tehran for the past eight years.

The Times quoted Omar bin Laden, 29, who it said was the al Qaeda leader's fourth-oldest son, as saying he had no idea that his brothers and sisters were still alive until they called him in November.

They told him how they had fled Afghanistan just before the 9/11 attacks and walked to the Iranian border. They were taken to a walled compound outside Tehran where guards said they were not allowed to leave "for their own safety."

Omar bin Laden said that his relatives lived as normal a life as possible, cooking meals, watching television and reading. They were allowed out only rarely for shopping trips.

"The Iranian government did not know what to do with this large group of people that nobody else wanted, so they just kept them safe. For that we owe them much gratitude, and thank Iran from the depth of our heart," he said.

He now hopes that the family will be given permission to leave Iran and join his mother, brother and two sisters in Syria, or himself and his wife in Qatar.

U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of Saudi-born bin Laden. Bin Laden has never been found and is believed to still be hiding in the mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.