RIYADH, Saudi Arabia >> Osama bin Laden’s Yemeni widow has received assurances from Saudi officials that she and her children can remain in the kingdom, a relative said Friday after Pakistan deported more than a dozen members of the late al-Qaida leader’s family.
The relative, speaking from Yemen, said Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada plans to stay in Saudi Arabia with her five children rather than return to her impoverished and violence-wracked homeland. The relative said the bin Laden family will provide a home and living expenses.
The family member spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Al-Sada and two other bin Laden widows — identified as Saudi nationals — as well as other family members were flown out of Pakistan early Friday following weeks of negotiations over the deportations. The possible future plans for the Saudi widows and their families were not immediately known.
Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 because of his denunciations of the Saudi royal family, and there have been questions about whether the kingdom would accept his widows and children. Saudi officials have made no public comment on the deportations, which were carried out less than a week before the one-year mark since bin Laden’s death in a raid by Navy SEALs on his Pakistan compound.
The departure of the bin Laden family from Pakistan closed another chapter in an affair that cemented the country’s reputation as a hub of Islamist extremism and cast doubt on its trustworthiness as a Western ally.
After the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s hideout, the widows were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agents and eventually charged last month with illegally entering and living in the country. The three wives and two adult daughters were convicted and sentenced to 45 days in prison. Their prison term, which was spent at a well-guarded house in Islamabad, ended earlier this month.
A statement from the Pakistani Interior Ministry said 14 members of the bin Laden family had been deported to the “country of their choice, Saudi Arabia.” Few details have been released about the family, but officials have said bin Laden had three wives, at least eight children and some grandchildren living with him in the house when it was stormed by the Americans.
The U.S. commandos took bin Laden’s body, which they later buried at sea.
The Pakistani government has denied knowing the whereabouts of the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. officials say they have no evidence senior Pakistani officials knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad, but questions remain. A Pakistani government commission has yet to publish its investigations into how bin Laden lived in the country and the circumstances of the American raid, but the report is widely expected to be a whitewash.
Pakistani officials were outraged that the U.S. did not tell them about the operation against bin Laden until after it happened — a decision American officials explained by saying they were worried the information would be leaked. Relations between the two countries plummeted after the raid and have yet to recover.
In November, U.S. airstrikes inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, dealing another blow to ties still strained from the bin Laden raid. Washington, which needs Pakistani cooperation against al-Qaida and in trying to end the Afghan war, is trying to rebuild the relationship.