Bin Laden's 'tender' side recalled by new al-Qaeda chief

In a new video posted on jihadist websites, new al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri portrays Osama bin Laden as a kind and gentle man who cried when his friends lost family members.

Ayman al-Zawahri's video meant to 'show the human side' of bin Laden

Osama bin Laden (left) sits with his adviser and eventual successor Ayman al-Zawahri in a 2001 file photo. (Hamid Mir/Reuters)

Here's how the new head of al-Qaeda remembers Osama bin Laden: A sensitive man who cried when his friends lost family members, remained close to his children despite the hard life of an international jihadist, and fondly remembered — by name — the 19 men who carried out the deadliest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil.  

Longtime bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, now al-Qaeda's new head, related these and other memories in a new video posted on jihadist websites Tuesday.

In the video, al-Zawahri said he wants "to show the human side" of bin Laden's life.   

In doing so, he also is likely trying to boost his own popularity by emphasizing his closeness to the terror group's former, more charismatic leader.   

Bin Laden, who built al-Qaeda into the world's most feared and despised terror organization and was the mastermind behind some of its deadliest attacks, was killed by Navy SEALs in May during a raid in Pakistan. Al-Zawahri assumed control of the organization shortly after, though experts say he lacks bin Laden's charisma, which drew many to the group.

Throughout the 30-minute, conversational video, apparently the first in a series, al-Zawahri emphasizes what he calls the "nobility" of bin Laden's character — as well as his own proximity to him.

"People don't know that this man was tender, gentle, kind, with refined feelings, even when life was hard," al-Zawahri said, wearing a white robe and turban and sitting in front of a green curtain. "We never saw a man like him."   

Al-Zawahri told stories of how bin Laden remembered al-Qaeda members who died fighting "jihad," or "holy war." He gave special mention to the hijackers who carried out the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the U.S., which killed nearly 3,000 people.

"The sheik would remember with goodness and gratitude and be moved by the memory of the 19 brothers who attacked the idol of our age, America — the Pentagon, the headquarters of its military power, and New York, the symbol of its economic power," he said, pointing his finger for emphasis. "He would remember these brothers with extreme fidelity."

He recalled one time when he and bin Laden were hiding in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora, saying bin Laden wrote death certificates for each one of the hijackers, fearing he would be killed "without remembering these heroic martyrs."   

At one point, al-Zawahri related bin Laden's reaction when al-Zawahri got the news that some members of his family had been killed. Bin Laden came to him with tears in his eyes and hugged him, he said.   

Al-Zawahri devotes much of his talk to bin Laden's relationship with his children, saying he paid great attention to educating them well despite having to move from place to place.

"Everyone close to him saw the fine and noble education in his children," he said. Bin Laden brought in a teacher who would threaten to beat the children with a stick to teach them the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, al-Zawahri said.   

To conclude the video, al-Zawahri recalled when the two men and one of bin Laden's sons were driving a truck in the dark in Afghanistan and decided to split up for safety. Bin Laden went to say goodbye to his son, not knowing when, or if, he would see him again, al-Zawahri said.  

"He told him, My son, we are keeping our oath, fighting jihad in the path of Allah," he said.