Bin Laden 'was taking tranquillisers before 11 September', says wife

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One of Osama bin Laden's four wives has given a candid insight into life at home with America's most wanted man.

In an interview with Al-Majalla, a London-based Arabic-language magazine, the wife spoke of a stressed and ailing man who used tranquillisers to help him to sleep and became enraged when she asked him who was behind the bombings of the US embassies in East Africa in 1998.

The woman was interviewed on condition that her location remain a secret and that she be referred to only by the initials AS – perhaps those of Mr bin Laden's fourth and youngest wife, Amal al-Sadah, thought to be a 19-year-old Yemeni.

She said that in the months leading up to 11 September, Mr bin Laden used to return to their home in Kandahar late at night and lie on his bed for hours without speaking. He never mentioned an attack on New York or Washington, but spoke of a "big plan" to confront the United States.

"Lately he looked continuously worried, exhausted and tired because of his long nights awake. Most days, he used to take tranquillisers and medicine to help him sleep."

He complained of pains in his kidneys and stomach and preferred a diet of honey, bread and figs to meat, though he loved hunting.

"AS" said that she had not heard from her husband since 11 September, when she was holed up in caves in southern Afghanistan before being moved to a secret location in Pakistan by one of Mr bin Laden's sons. "After several days we heard about the explosions in America and that it had declared war on Osama and the Taliban."

At one time, Mr bin Laden told her that Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, probably "did not want him to stay with them any more". He was worried the Taliban might "turn against him and get rid of him and that America would pay money for someone to get rid of him".

Her children were provided with tutors to teach them English and other subjects when the Taliban banned all but religious schools. "They were also to use the internet."

She believes her husband is in Afghanistan. "He said if he were to leave Afghanistan, it would be to meet his God," she told the magazine.

Asked if she had any regrets about marrying a man whom the world considered a terrorist, she said: "I don't have any regret because this is God's will, and I don't consider him to be a terrorist."