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Son wants Osama to give up violence

world Updated: Jan 22, 2008 19:28 IST

Elusive Al Qaeda mastermind Osama-bin Laden may have terrorised the world, but his 26-year-old son Omar aims to launch "a movement of peace" and wants his father to give up violence and find "another way" to pursue his goals.

Omar, who last saw Osama in 2000 when he decided to leave al Qaeda, said he did not think his father was a terrorist and was sure that he must have felt "very sorry" for the September 11 terror attacks.

In interviews to US news channels, Omar, who works as a contractor, however, expressed apprehensions that his father "doesn't have the power to stop the movement at this moment."

Omar, who is the fourth of 11 children born to his Osama's first wife and one of 19 children the Al Qaeda leader has fathered, said he is talking publicly because he wants an end to the violence his father has inspired by launching a movement for peace.

"I try and say to my father: 'Try to find another way to help or find your goal. This bomb, this weapons, it's not good to use it for anybody, " he told CNN in broken English.

He said that's not just his own message, but one that a friend of his father's and other Muslims have expressed to him. "They too say ... My father should change (his) way."

He said he has no idea where his father is, but is confident he will never be caught because locals support him.

Omar, who has has little in common with his father except his looks minus the beard, grabbed headlines when he married a British national twice his age.

"Being Osama's son, I don't hide it. I don't hide my name," he said. "I am proud by my name, but if you have a name like mine you will find people run away from you, are afraid of you."

Omar said he doesn't consider his father to be a terrorist. When his father was fighting the Soviets, Washington considered him a hero, he said.

"Before they call it war; now they call it terrorism," he said. He said his father believes his duty is to protect Muslims from attack.

"He believes this is his job -- to help the people," he said. "I don't think my father is a terrorist because history tells you he's not."

However, Omar bin Laden said he differs greatly with his father over the killing of civilians.

"I don't think 9/11 was right personally, but it happened," he said. "I don't think ... [the war] in Vietnam was right. I don't think what's going on in Palestine is right. I don't think what's going on in Iraq is right."

He said he left al Qaeda because he did not want to be associated with killing civilians. He said his father did not try to dissuade him from leaving al Qaeda.

"My father is very kind man," Omar told ABC. "And he very sorry when he do something like 11th September."

"He believes if he put two buildings down, maybe some people, little will die," explained Omar. "But millions other will (be) save(d). He believe(d) that."

Asked why he did not protest more strongly to his father's role in the killing of civilians, he said it is up to the religious clerics close to his father to tell Osama bin Laden to change tactics in the name of Islam.

And even if that most unlikely scenario were to occur, he said, al Qaeda would not stop. "My father doesn't have the power to stop the movement at this moment."

Osama and his wife Zaina are organising a major horserace through North Africa in the name of peace, set to kick off this year.

But getting sponsors to line up behind the name bin Laden has been difficult. "It would probably have been easier to do a race without having Omar's name, but then the race would just be a race, it wouldn't be a race for peace," his wife said.

Asked whether he would tell the Americans if he found out exactly where his father is living.

"Actually, I would hide him," Omar said smiling. "Because he is my father."

Asked if his father might be living along the Afghan-Pakistan border, he said, "Maybe, maybe not."

"Either way, the people there are different," he said. "They don't care about the government."

"I still love him, so much, with all my heart," he said, adding "if you ask Bush ('s) daughter if she love(s) (her) father, sure she will love him."