CAIRO – A daughter of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has taken refuge in the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after eluding guards who have held her, her sister and four brothers under house arrest for eight years, a Saudi-owned newspaper reported Wednesday.
It has long been believed that Iran has held in custody a number of bin Laden’s children since they fled Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion of that country in 2001 – most notably his sons, Saad and Hamza bin Laden, who are thought to have held positions in al-Qaida.
This year, U.S. officials said Saad bin Laden may have been killed by a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan, where they said he may have fled after being freed from Iran, but they could not confirm the information.
But Omar bin Laden, another son who lives abroad, told the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the 17-year-old daughter, Eman, told relatives in a call from the embassy that 29-year-old Saad and four other brothers were still being held in Iran.
Attempts by the Associated Press to reach Omar were not immediately returned, and there was no comment from Iranian or Saudi officials.
Asharq Al-Awsat said Eman slipped away from guards and fled to the Saudi Embassy nearly a month ago. The embassy’s charge d’affaires, Fouad al-Qassas, confirmed to the paper that she has been at the mission for 25 days and that there were diplomatic efforts with the Iranians to get her out of the country.
Another bin Laden son, Abdullah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, told the Arab TV news network Al-Jazeera in an interview aired this week that Eman telephoned him after she eluded guards who were taking her on a shopping trip in Tehran.
Osama bin Laden reportedly has 19 children by several wives.