Osama bin Laden's will leaves $29-mn for 'use on jihad'

In his handwritten will, Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden claimed he had about $29 million in personal wealth – the bulk of which he wanted to be used "on jihad, for the sake of Allah".

The will was released on Tuesday in a batch of more than 100 documents seized in the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The Al-Qaeda leader planned to divide his fortune among his relatives but wanted most of it spent to conduct the work of the Islamic extremist terror network behind the 11 September, 2001 attacks in New York.

The threat of sudden death was on his mind years before the fatal raid in Pakistan.

"If I am to be killed," he wrote in a 2008 letter to his father, "pray for me a lot and give continuous charities in my name, as I will be in great need for support to reach the permanent home."

The documents were released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. They address a range of topics, including fractures between Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually splintered off into what is now known as the Islamic State; and Bin Laden's concerns about his organisation's public image.

In another letter, addressed to The Islamic Community in general, Bin Laden offered an upbeat assessment of progress in his holy war and of US failings in Afghanistan. The letter is undated but appears to have been written in 2010.

"Here we are in the tenth year of the war, and America and its allies are still chasing a mirage, lost at sea without a beach," he wrote.

"They thought that the war would be easy and that they would accomplish their objectives in a few days or a few weeks, and they did not prepare for it financially, and there is no popular support that would enable it to carry on a war for a decade or more."

Bin Laden sought to portray the US as mired in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. In an undated letter that appears to have been written in the 2009-2010 period, he compared the American combat position to that of the Soviet Union in the final years of its occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"America appears to be hanging on by a thin thread," he wrote. "We need to be patient a bit longer. With patience, there is victory!"

Beginning last summer, the CIA led an interagency review of the classified documents under the auspices of the White House's National Security Council staff. Representatives from seven agencies combed through the documents.

Reuters and ABC Television were given exclusive access to the documents, which were translated from Arabic and declassified by US intelligence agencies.

They were part of a second tranche of documents seized in the operation and have been declassified since May 2015. A large number have yet to be released.

One document, a hand-written note that US intelligence officials believe the Saudi militant composed in the late 1990s, laid out how he wanted to distribute about $29 million he had in Sudan.

One per cent of the $29 million, bin Laden wrote, should go to Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, a senior al Qaeda militant who used the nom de guerre Abu Hafs al Mauritani.

"By the way, he (al-Walid) has already received 20,000-30,000 dollars from it, bin Laden continued.  I promised him that I would reward him if he took it out of the (Sudanese) government."

Bin Laden lived in Sudan for five years as an official guest until he was asked to leave in May 1996 by the then-Islamic fundamentalist government under pressure from the United States.

Another 1 per cent of the sum should be given to a second associate, Engineer Abu Ibrahim al-Iraqi Sa'ad, for helping set up bin Laden's first company in Sudan, Wadi al-Aqiq Co, the document said.

Bin Laden urged his close relatives to use the rest of the funds to support holy war.

"I hope for my brothers, sisters and maternal aunts to obey my will and to spend all the money that I have left in Sudan on jihad, for the sake of Allah," he wrote.

He set down specific amounts in Saudi riyals and gold that should be apportioned between his mother, a son, a daughter, an uncle, and his uncle's children and maternal aunts.

In a letter dated 15 August, 2008, and addressed "To my Precious Father," bin Laden asks that his wife and children be taken care of in the event he died first.

It was unclear to whom bin Laden was writing, as his natural father, Mohammed bin Laden, died in a 1967 airplane crash. US intelligence officials were not immediately available to comment on whether he may have been referring to his step-father, Mohammad al-Attas.

"My precious father: I entrust you well for my wife and children, and that you will always ask about them and follow up on their whereabouts and help them in their marriages and needs," he wrote.

In a final wistful paragraph, he asks for forgiveness "if I have done what you did not like."