Osama bin Laden wanted $29M fortune used ‘on jihad’

Deb Riechmann
Associated Press

Washington — Hidden away in his Pakistan hideout, an increasingly paranoid Osama bin Laden suspected Iran of implanting a tracking device in his wife’s mouth and drafted a will directing much of his $29 million fortune to be spent on jihad after his death.

The details about the al-Qaida leader’s life were released Tuesday in a second batch of letters and other documents seized in a May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden at his secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The letters detail his rift with militants who later broke off from al-Qaida and formed the Islamic State, as well as plans for a media blitz to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Other correspondence resonates with suspicion and fear.

In a letter to one of his wives who lived in Iran, bin Laden expressed worry that her dental appointment could have allowed Iranians to implant a tracking device under her skin.

“My dear wife,” he began. “I was told that you went to a dentist in Iran, and you were concerned about a filling she put in for you. Please let me know in detail … any suspicions that any of the brothers may have about chips planted in any way.”

The Iranian dentist might have used a slightly enlarged syringe to make such an implant, bin Laden wrote in the undated letter.

“The size of the chip is about the length of a grain of wheat and the width of a fine piece of vermicelli,” bin Laden said. He asked her to recall the exact date of her dental work, “also about any surgery you had, even if it was only a quick pinch.”

In another letter, bin Laden warned about using safe methods for moving money.

“It is important to get rid of the suitcase in which the funds are delivered, due to the possibility of it having a tracking chip inside it,” he wrote.

He said that funds should be shuttled by vehicle but only on cloudy days — an apparent reference to avoiding a U.S. drone strike.

One document is a signed, handwritten will that intelligence officials suspect was written before bin Laden’s departure from Sudan in 1996. He claimed he had about $29 million that he planned to divide among some relatives, but the bulk was to be used “on jihad, for the sake of Allah.”

It was not clear if bin Laden actually had access to so much money, if he shared the will with anyone, and if his instructions were carried out.

The newly released materials reveal an al-Qaida network that was sometimes disorganized behind the scenes and struggling to keep its fighters unified, according to two senior intelligence officials.