Growing up in the 1990s, Abdurahman Khadr's playmates were the children of his father's longtime friend, Osama bin Laden.
How Khadr was raised to be an Al Qaeda terrorist -- and how he ultimately decided to become a U.S. informant in the war on terror -- is the focus of the FRONTLINE report "Son of Al Qaeda." Through interviews with Khadr as well as his mother and siblings, the one-hour documentary recounts his incredible journey from terrorist trainee to informant, offering a revealing glimpse inside the world -- and mindset -- of Al Qaeda followers.
"I want to show people that I'm a person … that was raised to become an Al Qaeda, was raised to become a suicide bomber," 21-year-old Khadr tells Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) correspondent Terence McKenna. "I decided on my own that I do not want to do that."
In "Son of Al Qaeda," Abdurahman Khadr and his family members offer a rarely seen private portrait of Osama bin Laden, describing him as an ordinary man with a love for poetry, horseback riding, and a good game of volleyball.
"I would say he's a normal human being," says Khadr, whose father, Ahmed Said Khadr, brought the family from Canada to Afghanistan, where they eventually moved into the bin Laden family compound. "[Bin Laden] has issues with his wife, and he has issues with his kids … he's a father and he's a person."
In interviews with the CBC's McKenna, Khadr's mother and sister voice strong support for bin Laden and his adherence to fundamentalist Islamic practices and beliefs. They speak proudly of Ahmed Said Khadr's death last year in Pakistan, calling him a martyr. They also express the wish that Abdurahman and his brothers could have shared their father's fate: Fourteen-year-old Karim was shot and paralyzed in the missile attack that killed his father. Omar, 17, is imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, while Abdullah 22, remains a suspected Al Qaeda fugitive.
"We believe dying by the hand of your enemy because you're doing it in the way of Allah, that it's the best way to die," Abdurahman's sister, Zaynab, 23, tells FRONTLINE. "… I'd love to die like that."
But Abdurahman was different. "I'm the Canadian son …" he says. "I like watching movies and, you know, as a normal kid. But that wasn't okay with [the bin Ladens]."
In "Son of Al Qaeda," Abdurahman Khadr recounts making the first of five trips to bin Laden's terrorist training camps when he was just 11 years old. But his constant rebelliousness, attempts to run away, and his refusal to become a suicide bomber would lead his father to declare him a "cancer" that threatened to "infect" the rest of the Khadr family.
"Son of Al Qaeda" chronicles Khadr's growing disillusionment with Al Qaeda and its increasingly bloody terrorist operations. Following Sept. 11, Khadr says he was picked up for questioning by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and made the decision to cooperate. The documentary then offers a detailed account of Khadr's life as a paid CIA informant, tracing his movements from Kabul to Guantanamo Bay -- where he says he was placed among the prisoners in an attempt to gain human intelligence and access to Al Qaeda secrets -- and finally to Bosnia, where he attempted to infiltrate Al Qaeda operations before making the decision to end his covert activities and return to Canada.
"My mother … she will dread me for doing this," Khadr says of his decision to tell his story. "She'll say, 'You left us. You sold out on your father. You sold out on your people.'"