London: The head of the radical Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad has offered to adopt al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s children.
The Saudi-born terrorist, who had evaded capture for a decade, was killed on Sunday night in a top secret operation involving a small team of US Special Forces in city, located 50 kilometres northeast of Islamabad and 150 kilometres east of Peshawar.
Osama bin Laden’s children may now be stateless because of the 9/11 mastermind’s revoked citizenship status. However, Maulana Abdul Aziz, head of Islamabad’s controversial Lal Masjid mosque, is offering to adopt the children.
“We accept that bin Laden is dead and consider him a martyr,” the Star quoted Aziz, as saying.
“We know many people who would want to care for his children, and we would be willing to look after them, too,” he added.
Lal Masjid is one of Pakistan’s most radical mosques, and a staging ground four years ago for a showdown between government forces and archconservative extremists.
In July 2007, soldiers raided the mosque after a series of provocations by its members, in which 76 militants and 11 soldiers were killed.
Aziz was captured when he tried to escape. He fled the mosque wearing a burqa, the head-to-toe veil worn by female students at his conservative seminary.
Walking into Lal Masjid, 22-year-old Fahim Khan said that while he does not believe that bin Laden is dead, he hopes the children are assimilated in madrassas like Jamia Afridi, a school funded by the mosque.
“We’d be proud to have them, the children, too, are heroes,” Khan added.
Several retired Pakistan diplomats said that they doubted the government would allow bin Laden’s children to be handed over to a madrassa, the report said.
“It’d be a huge mistake. The children would have a cult following and almost certainly become jihadis,” said Zafar Hilaly, a former Pakistan diplomat and aide to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
“Wouldn’t it be great if the US said that ‘they can come here’?” he said, adding that it is unreasonable, however, to expect the US government to make that offering.
It is also possible that the children might be turned over to public or privately run orphanages, although that too is a less than ideal option, said the report.
“The government-run orphanages are basically like prison cells,” said Mohammad Tahseen, founder of the South Asia Partnership, a consortium of Canadian and international aid agencies.
“There’s a lot of exploitation there. Over the past years there’s been a bit of improvement, but it’s still a very bleak picture,” he noted.