CAIRO – Osama bin Laden spent all his personal wealth on jihad, considering meat and electricity as luxuries so he could save his money to help fund terror attacks, according to recollections from his deputy and successor posted online late Saturday
Al-Qaida's new leader Ayman al-Zawahri, in the second of his "Days with the Imam" series of videos, said that bin Laden would however pay readily for hospitality for his guests — although he lived mostly on bread and vegetables, he once invested in an entire herd of sheep to slaughter in case visitors came by.
Al-Zawahri, who became head of al-Qaida after bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid last year, spoke conversationally while dressed in a white Arab robe and turban.
He is believed to lack his predecessor's personal authority within the far-flung terror network, and may be trying to boost his own popularity by emphasizing his closeness to the more charismatic bin Laden.
Bin Laden was born to a wealthy family, but ran into financial troubles after he was pushed out of Sudan in 1996, al-Zawahri said.
Shortly thereafter, he said, Bin Laden spent $50,000 to help finance 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania at a time when he only had $55,000 to his name. Those bombings killed 224 people. Bin Laden's personal wealth also helped finance the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
"He is well-known for living austerely but he spent all his money for jihad," al-Zawahri said "If you enter his house you would find simple furniture .. and if we were invited to eat, he offered us what was available in his house, bread and vegetables."
But the terror leader was "generous to his guests by slaughtering sheep for them and because of continuous visitors, he once bought a herd of sheep so that he would be always ready for them."
Al-Zawahri said bin Laden used to encourage the mujahideen — "holy warriors" — to live without electricity which he considered as luxury.
"Luxury is the enemy of jihad and if the mujahideen were brought up to live in asceticism, they would tolerate the burden of jihad," al-Zawahri quoted bin Laden as saying.
Al-Zawahri said bin Laden was also generous to his bodyguards, who were devoted to him. Once in Afghanistan, he came under shelling, but the bodyguards took bin Laden to a wall and formed a human shield around him.
In the first video in the series, posted on jihadist Web sites in November, al-Zawahri said he wanted to show bin Laden's "human side." He described a sensitive man who cried when his friends lost family members, remained close to his children despite the hard life of an international jihadist, and fondly remembered — by name — the 19 men who carried out the deadliest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil.