DUBAI (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden led a frugal life, spending all his personal wealth on attacks against the West and serving his guests good food, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in a video posted online on Sunday.
In the half-hour tape titled “Days with the imam, Part Two” a bespectacled Zawahri, who took up the reins of al Qaeda after bin Laden’s killing just over a year ago, fondly recalled his predecessor’s meager comforts.
“When you entered his house you would be surprised. It was a very simple house, with some wooden beds and plastic coverings and very little furniture,” said Zawahri, wearing a white turban and speaking conversationally.
“If the Sheikh invited us to his house, he would give us what he had in the way of bread, vegetables, rice - whatever was available he would give us.”
Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan last May in a night-time raid by U.S. special forces, ending a 10-year manhunt that spanned the globe.
“He spent all his money on jihad,” said Zawahri, adding bin Laden had given $50,000 to help finance bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people in 1998. At the time, he had no more than $55,000 to his name.
Zawahri chuckled occasionally as he recounted his memories of bin Laden, whom he said had urged his fellow mujahideen, or “holy warriors”, to shun electricity in preparation for the hardships of life as on the run.
Despite his austere way of life, bin Laden was a generous host and once bought a whole herd of sheep to feed his frequent visitors in Afghanistan, said Zawahri.
“He was known for his generosity with guests. He would slaughter livestock for them and give them tasty food.”
Zawahri was bin Laden’s lieutenant and the brains behind much of al Qaeda’s strategy for many years.
Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Isabel Coles; By Ralph Gowling