Osama bin Laden's family preparing to live incognito in Saudi Arabia

The 14 members of Osama bin Laden's family who survived the US Navy Seal raid which killed him in May last year were on Friday preparing to live incognito - but apparently in some luxury - in Saudi Arabia after being deported from Pakistan.

By Tom Hussain in Islamabad and Adam Baron in Sanaa
27 Apr 2012
The Telegraph

They included three of his widowed wives, ten children and one grandchild. One of his wives, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, was deported to Saudi Arabia despite being a Yemeni, at the insistence of Yemen officials and members of her family who feared she might become a focal point for bin Laden's followers or alternatively targeted by al-Qaeda militants.

In Saudi Arabia, the family members are expected to reside with bin Laden's extended family, led by Osama's half-brother, Bakr bin Mohammed Binladin, the chairman of Saudi Binladin. The kingdom's biggest construction company, it is the foundation of the family's fortune.

They were deported on the orders of a Pakistan court after being convicted of entering the country illegally, but it is understood officials wanted them removed from the country before next week's first anniversary of the raid in which the al-Qaead leader was killed.

The raid caused a serious rift between Pakistan's government and its military leadership which had not been warned about the American helicopter raid into the heart of Abbotabad, the army garrison town where bin Laden and his large family lived in a conspicuous mansion undetected for more than six years.

Since then, his widows and their children have been living under heavy security in a safe house in Islamabad while negotiations between the Pakistan, Yemen and Saudi governments on where they should be deported.

Bin Laden himself was born in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, but to a Yemeni construction billionaire. Yemeni officials regarded his wife Amal Ahmed al-Sadah to be a Saudi because bin Laden was a Saudi national, although Riyadh had revoked his nationality for aiming to topple the royal family.

A Yemen government official rejected claims that his Yemeni wife was being forced to live in exile in Saudi Arabia. "Its not an exile: her husband was a Saudi. Pakistan was exile," he said. Her family have asked she be allowed the choice to return to Yemen at some point but it is understood she is likely to remain in Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani interior ministry confirmed their deportation to Jeddah and described their destination, Saudi Arabia, as their "country of choice".

They travelled to the airport in a minibus under heavy police escort and were smuggled into Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport through a secret entrance. Saudi diplomats took custody of the family at the airport and escorted them to the awaiting aircraft.

They have not been charged with any offence by the Saudi authorities, but will live under tight security, the family's Pakistani lawyer, Aamir Khalil said.

Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin dies

Envoy: Ruler buried in Saudi Arabia, where he lived in exile

Saturday, August 16, 2003

(CNN) -- Former Ugandan military ruler Idi Amin, blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the 1970s, has died in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, according to medical officials.

Ugandan officials say Amin was 80, though his birth year is also listed as 1925. Amin, who had lived for years in exile in the port city of Jeddah, had been on life support since July 18, after slipping into a coma.

A family member said Amin was to be buried Saturday afternoon in Saudi Arabia, Ugandan journalist Odoobo Bichachi told CNN. Uganda's ambassador to the United States, Edith Ssempala, said she believed the burial had taken place.

"Ugandans and the Uganda government are kind of relieved," Ssempala told CNN. "But on the other hand, we do sympathize with the family. Idi Amin had children. He had wives. They're hurting, obviously."

Ssempala denied charges from some of Amin's relatives that the Ugandan government had denied their request to bury the dictator in Uganda.

"He could have been buried in Uganda," she said. "It's just when Muslims die, they are buried immediately. There's just no way he could have been brought to Uganda in time."

Kibirige told CNN that Amin's family had asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to allow him to return home to Uganda to die.

But according to his relatives, the Ugandan government said he would face arrest.

Amin was overweight and had suffered from hypertension and fatigue in recent years, said David Kibirige, a senior reporter for the Ugandan newspaper The Monitor. Later, hospital staff said he suffered kidney failure.

He died at 8:20 a.m. Saturday [1:20 a.m. EDT] at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, The Associated Press quoted one unnamed official as saying.

A onetime heavyweight boxing champ and soldier in the British colonial army, Amin seized power in a military coup January 25, 1971, overthrowing President Milton Obote while he was abroad. (Amin profile)

Amin's rule was marked by extreme nationalism. He ordered the persecution of several Ugandan tribal groups and kicked all Asians out of the country in 1972, an action blamed for the collapse of the country's economy.

The dictator was personally involved in the 1976 Palestinian hijacking of a French airliner to Entebbe.

According to the CIA World Factbook, during his eight years in power, Amin's "dictatorial regime" was "responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents."

Human rights groups say that figure is much higher, arguing that as many as 500,000 people were killed or simply disappeared under his rule.

Exiles said he kept severed heads in his refrigerator, fed corpses to crocodiles and had one of his wives dismembered. He was also accused of cannibalism.


Inhabiting a monster

Forest Whitaker gets inside the mind of brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in his new film, 'The Last King of Scotland.'


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Associated Press

Forest Whitaker tends to stick to the fringes, a soft-spoken man best known for restrained supporting roles and hushed characters who would not stand out in a crowd.

So it's surprising to see him at the center of the throng, whipping people up to a frenzy. And even more surprising that he's doing it as that tyrannical bogeyman of the 1970s, Idi Amin, in "The Last King of Scotland." The film opens today in Los Angeles and comes to Orange County on Oct. 6.

Whitaker approaches the Ugandan dictator the way the finest actors to play Adolf Hitler have done, putting a frighteningly human face on a leader able to enchant the masses and media even as his brutal regime tortured and killed people.

A teenager when Amin's eight-year reign ended in 1979, Whitaker initially was aware of the man only as the despot depicted in the news.

"I just had a postage-stamp image of him. They created him as this savage, brutal guy. I remember this picture of him holding his fist up in a military-type uniform, and he was known as this crazy dictator," Whitaker, 45, told The Associated Press at the Toronto International Film Festival. "That's really all I knew until I started working on the character. Then it became much more vast. ...

"Hundreds of thousands of people died under his watch, so I'm not negating that. But the amount of charisma, humor, joy and verve he had. I had no idea of that, and it's very clear when you watch him on tape, he was a massive showman."

Adapted from Giles Foden's novel, the film spins a fictional narrative about a young Scottish doctor (James McAvoy) seeking adventure in Uganda who catches Amin's eye and becomes personal physician – and ultimately trapped confidant – to the charming but ruthless ruler.

Whitaker fell somewhat under the man's spell himself as he researched Amin, who died in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003.

Ugandans have curiously mixed feelings about Amin, abhorring the man for his bloody methods while admiring his progressive efforts to build schools and hospitals.

"I had to pass through the propaganda maze – ignore it, actually – and just go to the source," said Whitaker, who researched the character through copious reading, studying video footage and talking with Ugandans about Amin.

"If we were in Uganda, we would know him intimately," Whitaker said. "He would have killed someone we know or promoted someone we know. So it's kind of easy. You get in a cab there, you're going to hear story after story."

Preparing for a role, Whitaker often immerses himself in the character's world. For the lead role in "Bird," Clint Eastwood's film biography of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, Whitaker said he moved into a New York City loft "solely to be able to play the sax 24/7."

For the lead in Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," Whitaker said he meditated two or three hours a day to get inside the head of his taciturn character, "so by the time I walked out on set, I was kind of in an odd space. I was, like, buzzing."

For "The Last King of Scotland," Whitaker painstakingly re-created Amin's accent and submerged himself in African culture, visiting archaeological landmarks, subsisting on regional food staples such as green bananas and bean sauce, and trekking to the source of the Nile.

On set, Whitaker would maintain Amin's accent and bearing between takes. His embodiment of Amin was so authentic it intimidated the film's crew, co-star McAvoy said.

"I was in every scene in the film, so I saw the crew when Forest wasn't on the set, and it was a completely different atmosphere. When Forest walked on the set and we'd been working all day, you'd just see everybody tense up totally," McAvoy said. "But in a way, people focused more and worked harder, and everybody stepped up."

The film's producers had long been thinking of Whitaker to play Amin, but director Kevin Macdonald was reluctant when he came on board.

"My reaction was, well, no. I think he's a great actor, but he does a different kind of a thing. He's very sweet-natured, sensitive, internal. This needs to be somebody who's out there, who's an extrovert, an exhibitionist in a way, and that's not Forest," said Macdonald, who was won over after hearing Whitaker's meticulous thoughts about the character.

"He could understand certain things about the psyche. I thought, oh, that's very interesting. He's not thinking about him from the outside. He's thinking about him from the inside, who he really is. He not only humanizes this monster, but also, even at the most horrible, violent moments, he brings this thing to it where you feel he thinks he's doing the right thing."

A Texas native who grew up around Los Angeles, Whitaker began acting in college at the University of Southern California, earning his first notable role as a football jock with a prized sports car in 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

His career mainly has consisted of supporting parts in such films as "Platoon," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "The Crying Game." Whitaker had a key role opposite Jodie Foster in "Panic Room" and has a flurry of films in the works, among them "The Air That I Breathe," based on four Chinese parables; the assassination thriller "Vantage Point"; the improvised drama "Ripple Effect"; and "Where the Wild Things Are," adapted from Maurice Sendak's beloved book.

Whitaker also has remained busy in television with his acclaimed role as a creepily dogged internal-affairs cop on "The Shield" and an upcoming guest stint on "ER."

"The Last King of Scotland" has earned Whitaker early Academy Awards buzz, sentiments the actor appreciates though modestly brushes aside.

"It's a great thing, it's a great possibility, but I've been doing this for a long time now, and you need to keep your head about yourself. You need to keep doing what you're doing and feel good about a couple of films that are going to come. I keep thinking about what am I going to do next? What characters can I play?" Whitaker said.

"People can continue to write what they're writing, say what they're saying or buzz what they're buzzing, but I'm going to be consumed by something else."