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Bin Laden's family link to Bush
by PETER ALLEN, Daily Mail

n summer 1971, Osama and Salem Bin Laden enjoyed a holiday in Sweden with some of their 55 brothers and sisters.

Yet within a few years, the two teenagers' lives had taken stunningly different turns.

As the world knows to its cost, Osama embraced Islamic fundamentalism and 30 years later was named the world's most wanted man. He is prime suspect in the murder of nearly 7,000 in the worst ever terrorist atrocities in the U.S. earlier this month.

Incredibly, Salem went on to become a business partner of the man who is leading the hunt for his brother. In the 1970s, he and George W Bush were founders of the Arbusto Energy oil company in Mr Bush's home state of Texas.

Photos reveal the brothers on family holiday to the Swedish town of Falun, 150 miles north-west of Stockholm, when Osama was 14 and Salem around 19.

The brothers had recently inherited a fortune from their construction magnate father, Mohammed. He left millions to each of his 57 children by 12 wives after dying in a plane crash in 1968.

Osama and Salem first visited Falun in 1970, arriving in a blue Rolls-Royce flown to Copenhagen by private jet. They liked the town so much they returned with other family members a year later.

Learning that the Bin Ladens, originally from Saudi Arabia, were staying at the Astoria Hotel, a local photographer asked the unusual visitors to pose.

Astoria owner Christina Akerblad said last night: 'They were beautiful boys, so elegantly dressed. Everybody loved them.

'Osama played with my two boys, Anders and Gerk.

'What's happened since is absolutely terrible. The first time I realised Osama had turned into a terrorist was when I saw his photograph in a magazine article about the bombing. He and his brother were such nice boys.'

At that time the brothers both delighted in their enormous wealth. Salem - wearing a polo neck and slacks as he crouches three places from Osama, in jeans and a skinny rib jumper - put a large part of his money into business ventures, including Arbusto Energy.

Mr Bush was not long out of Harvard Business School when he started the company in 1978.

Salem watched it grow into a hugely successful business until his death in a microlight plane crash in Texas in 1983.

As he built his own business empire, Salem Bin Laden had an intriguing relationship with the president-to-be.

In 1978, he appointed James Bath, a close friend of Mr Bush who served with him in the Air National Guard, as his representative in Houston, Texas.

It was in that year that Mr Bath invested $50,000 (about 34,000) in Mr Bush's company, Arbusto. It was never revealed whether he was investing his own money or somebody else's.

There was even speculation that the money might have been from Salem. In the same year, Mr Bath bought Houston Gulf Airport on behalf of the Saudi Arabian multimillionaire. Three years ago, Mr Bush said the $50,000 investment in Arbusto was the only financial dealing he had with Mr Bath.

Last night a White House spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Before his death, Salem was married to Briton Caroline Carey, now 35.

She has never spoken about her brother-in-law Osama, who was disowned by the rest of his family in 1991 when he was expelled from Saudi Arabia for his anti-government activities.

Now living in luxury in a Cairo villa, she has married twice into the Bin Laden family - first to Salem, and now to a younger brother, Khaled. She has a daughter by each brother.

Three years ago a family friend said: 'She first met Salem when she was just a child - no more than five years old.

'He was a friend of the family but at that stage no one would have dreamed that they would end up marrying.

'When they met again as adults, Caroline was 20 and Salem twice her age.

'Salem was the head of the Bin Laden family as the oldest of all the brothers and sisters.

'He was a man with a powerful presence.'

They married and, after his death, Caroline decided to bring up her daughter in Saudi Arabia.

'Caroline was a widow for nearly ten years before deciding to marry Khaled,' said the friend. 'He is one of the younger brothers and very quiet and loving.

'She can never speak publicly about her marriage, or anything else for that matter, or she would be cut off from the family.'

Caroline's father, a retired psychology lecturer from Hampstead, said: 'My daughter is very happy with Khaled. She decided to stay on in Saudi Arabia because she found her family there to be so loving and supportive.'

Yesterday FBI agents swooped on a Boston suburb where around 20 of the wealthy relatives of Bin Laden live. They questioned them at a condominium complex in Charlestown. Agents even began visiting nightclubs to collect credit cards of younger members of the family.

Bin Laden's younger brother Mohammed, who is said to have moved back to Saudi Arabia with his wife and children several years ago, owns a ten-bedroom mansion in nearby Wayland.

Another younger brother, Abdullah, is a 1994 graduate of Harvard Law School. The family has given it 2million in endowments to research Islamic law.

Most of Bin Laden's family have in the past strongly denounced the 44-year-old fugitive, now living in Afghanistan.

The FBI in Boston has long been aware of his extended family and began monitoring their activities after the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.

The Bin Ladens still run one of the biggest construction companies in the world.

2001 Associated New Media Limited
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