There’s more to the Binladins than OBL

The main building and control tower of Blackbushe AirportYesterday a light aircraft crashed when attempting to land at Blackbushe airfield near Farnborough. The airfield is a former RAF base which has also been a passenger airport, but these days is used for executive jets and for pilots’ training. More significantly, there is a big car auction site next to it, which has an auction house as well as acres and acres of car park used to store the goods (cars). The aircraft came down in the middle of one of these car lots and destroyed several cars. I’ve delivered there (during a three-week period driving cars to and from that site for British Car Auctions) and my first thought was that the plane might have hit the auction house, which would have caused far more casualties, but which it did not. Anyway, the three passengers all belonged to the Saudi Binladin family, a large and wealthy Saudi family which owns, among other things, a large construction company, but whose most famous member over here was Osama, who is better known for demolition.

You may notice that I have spelled “Binladin” differently to how the name is usually spelled in the media. That is how the family spells it when they write in English. Media reports about this crash, such as this one in the Guardian and this one in the Daily Mail, said that the four people killed were relatives of Osama bin Laden, giving their relation to him rather than to his father Mohammed, who had more than one wife (I am not sure how many) and plenty of descendants. Although many Saudis sympathised with (and helped finance) the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in which Osama bin Laden was active, after the Gulf War when the latter turned to terrorism and attacked western targets instead of Russian ones, both the Binladin family (who have substantial western connections and business interests) and the Saudi government turned against him. While any Google search for any of the Binladins will return lots of references to (and pictures of) Osama, the men are often shown in suits and ties and the women without hijab or with pretty floral headscarves, hardly a sign of a fanatically religious Muslim family, especially in Saudi Arabia.

Picture of Sana bin Laden, a middle-aged Arab woman in a floral headscarfOsama bin Laden is dead now, the organisation he ran is well-known to have lost so much ground to ISIS that its leaders are free men in some Arab countries. The other Binladins are not that well-known in the west but the fact that they are uninvolved in their late brother’s activities has been well-known for years. I don’t intend this as an advert for their corporation, which has been involved in all the religious building projects in Saudi Arabia (and the Saudis are notorious for demolishing historic buildings, including libraries, in the name of religious purism or to make way for vanity projects), though the woman killed in the crash (Sana, left) was a philanthropist known in Saudi as the “mother of orphans”, but it was not necessary to prominently report the relation of the dead in this crash to Osama bin Laden. It was newsworthy in itself that a passenger plane crashed near London with the loss of four lives, and in naming those killed, the fact that they were related to Osama bin Laden could have been mentioned in passing.

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