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Bin Laden used to run from blasts, report says
New York Daily News
WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden talks tough, but other mujahedeen laughed at him in Afghanistan because he would get scared and bolt when under fire, a new documentary claims.
"When bin Laden used to hear the explosions, he used to jump. He used to run away," his longtime friend Hutaifa Azzam says on "CNN Presents: In the Footsteps of Bin Laden."
"I still remember that me, and my elder and younger brothers, we used to laugh," says Azzam, the son of bin Laden's mentor in radical Islam, Abdullah Azzam.
Abdullah Azzam and bin Laden jointly created a mujahedeen support organization that later became al-Qaida.
Azzam was assassinated in 1989, with Hutaifa Azzam's two brothers, in a bombing tied to Egyptians close to bin Laden.
Hutaifa Azzam's CNN interview was his first with a Western broadcaster. The program also includes interviews with others who knew bin Laden from childhood to when he made the FBI's 10 Most-Wanted list after the 9/11 attacks.
The documentary, airing Aug. 23, is based on CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen's book, "The Osama bin Laden I Know."
Bin Laden's friends describe a man who shed the materialism of a millionaire to become a survivalist. He readied himself for a life of jihad by idolizing TV gunfighters and kung fu star Bruce Lee.
"We would watch cowboy movies, karate movies ... action movies," remembers schoolmate and soccer pal Khaled Batarfi.
To toughen themselves, bin Laden and his pals galloped across the sands of Arabia without food or shelter.
Though heir to a billion-dollar construction firm, bin Laden slept on the floor and shunned air conditioning and cold water, Bergen said on the program.
Bergen, speaking from Kabul, said bin Laden "overreached on 9/11 and now surrounds himself with yes-men and believes his own propaganda that the U.S. is weak. ... Unfortunately, he's still perhaps the most important leader in the Arab world."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company