Friday 9 December 2016

Three of Osama bin Laden's family killed in plane crash

Patrick Sawer

Published 02/08/2015 | 02:30

Members of the emergency services attend the scene of a plane crash at a car park next to Blackbushe Airport, in Hampshire, southern England
Members of the emergency services attend the scene of a plane crash at a car park next to Blackbushe Airport, in Hampshire, southern England

The sister, stepmother and a brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden were on holiday in the UK when their private jet crashed into a car auction site during an attempted landing at a Hampshire airport, killing them both.

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The plane had made regular trips to Britain in the past two years, leading to speculation that members of the former al-Qaeda leader's family were frequent visitors.

Bin Laden's stepmother, Rajaa Hashim, and his sister Sana, who worked in an orphanage in Saudi Arabia, were killed, along with Sana's husband Zuhair Hashim and the Jordanian pilot, when the plane crashed at Blackbushe Airport, near Yateley, on Friday.

Hampshire police said the family were "visiting the UK on vacation".

Industry sources revealed that the Embraer Phenom 300 jet, which was owned by the bin Laden family-run Salem Aviation company, had twice flown to southern England in the days before the crash.

On the day of the accident, the plane left Blackbushe for Milan's Malpensa airport in northern Italy at around 10am, before returning later that afternoon, crashing into the car auction centre shortly after 3pm.

The bin Laden family, which runs a huge construction conglomerate in Saudi Arabia, is not known to have any significant business interest in the UK, but London is a popular destination for many wealthy Saudis.

Sana bin Laden was said to be a respected philanthropist, supporting local orphanages and sponsoring children's education in Saudi Arabia.

A friend of the family - using only the first name Ajwa'a - paid tribute to her on her Facebook account alongside a photographer of Sana taken inside a plane, saying she donated money to charities and had not had contact with her brother Osama for decades.

The friend said: "She lived in a modest flat and had no servants. She did all the housework and looked after her husband. She was only concerned with helping the poor. She was a lovely person and may God bless her."

Another friend said she did not have any children of her own but was "loved dearly" by those at the orphanage, who called her "Mama Soso". She had recently organised a breakfast club for orphans.

The plane's pilot was Mazen Salem al-Dajah, a Jordanian in his late 50s, who was employed by the bin Laden corporation and had 25 years of flying experience.

No one on the ground, where cars were being sold, was killed or injured. A group of people, believed to be the family of the victims, were later escorted to the scene by police officers.

Barry Wright, who was in an office close to the crash site, said: "It was as though a missile had come flying down. There were small flames from the top of the aircraft and then literally it went into a ball of flames within a minute."

The deaths of relatives of bin Laden, who masterminded the 2001 attacks on New York, and was killed by US special forces in Pakistan 10 years later, was confirmed by the Saudi ambassador to Britain.

Sunday Independent

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