Wife and son bare secrets of terror kingpin
One night in Khartoum, Sudan, Osama bin Laden decides to take his family -- four wives, 14 children -- on a camping trip.
He drives into the desert, finds an isolated spot, then has his oldest sons dig ditches in the sand, long enough to fit each person.
It's the early 1990s, and bin Laden believes there's a war coming between Muslims and the Western infidels. This is training.
"You must be gallant. Do not think about foxes or snakes," he says. "Challenging trials are coming to us."
Each child, including a few 1- and 2-year-olds, lies in a hollow. There is no water or food.
"Cover yourself with dirt or grass," bin Laden snaps. "You will be warm under what nature provides."
Bin Laden's first wife, Najwa, doesn't like that idea, but, "I reminded myself that my husband knew much more about the big world than any of us. We were all pearls to my husband, and he wanted to protect us."
That's what it was like "Growing Up bin Laden," the title of a forthcoming memoir (St. Martin's Press) co-written by Najwa, who remains married to the monster, though she now lives apart from him in an undisclosed Middle Eastern location, with her fourth son -- of 11 children -- Omar.
It's a world where women are never allowed outside the house, 12-year-old daughters are married off to 30-year-old al Qaeda fighters, pet dogs are used for target practice and the biggest household fight is over whether Islam allows refrigerators. "Jon & Kate Plus 8" it ain't.
It is not the life that Najwa, now 51, would necessarily have chosen for herself, though she accepts it because "my husband says it is so."
She neither defends nor lashes out at Osama. Terrorism is what he does for a living; all she needed to worry about was keeping his house in order.
Despite her neutrality, her story is still an indictment -- showing us a terrorist leader who is embarrassed easily, obsessed with a long-dead father, terrified of women, and who thinks of his children as nothing more than cannon fodder.