bin Ladin Right Handed?
[Home] [bin Ladin] [Fake Video] [bin Ladin Right Handed?]

The story...

The FBI say bin Ladin is left handed, yet the supposed confession video shows him writing with his right hand -- it's clearly someone else.

Our take...

It's true, this is what the FBI say:

Bin Laden is the leader of a terrorist organization known as Al-Qaeda, "The Base". He is left-handed and walks with a cane.

So what’s going on?

One possibility is that the FBI are simply wrong. Many photos do seem to indicate left-handedness, for instance...

...Osama (Usama) bin Laden, who is featured in several different news photos using a Kalashnikov in a left-handed way...

But how reliable these might be is open to question, as you’ll see in this Usenet discussion from September 2001. And a reader suggests another reason why bin Ladin may be left-handed for some things, but use his right for others:

I was wondering if you have considered, that the reason Osama uses his right hand is because that is how Muslims are supposed to act. When I was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past few years, in the briefings all troops have to go through, they told us to never do anything with your left hand around the locals, such as hand them something, or touch them. Always do so with your right. To put it bluntly, we were told they use their left hand for dirty jobs, such as wiping themselves, and right hand for respectful things, like writing and shaking hands. If I was in a room with some of my highest ranking religious and political officials, and cared about what I was writing, I would be sure to act appropriately according to my religion and traditions.

Whatever the truth of this, we found footage claimed to be of bin Ladin in Sudan, that does show a man writing with his right hand. See The Paladin of Jihad for the full movie, though beware, it’s huge (zip forward to the 8 minute mark to verify this clip).

OBL writes

Click/ right-click on the picture to see the clip for yourself (almost 8MB). 

This isn’t conclusive proof, of course. It looks like bin Ladin when you see it in the context of the full clip, but we can’t guarantee that. Also the image could be mirrored. Still, without any evidence of either, it’s an indication that bin Ladin may be right-handed after all.

Even if we ignore this clip, it’s possible that bin Ladin may be ambidextrous. Or perhaps he's injured. Maybe there's a problem with his left hand, arm or side, and so he must now write with the other hand. Any support for that? It’s not entirely clear.

For example, A reader emailed us to point out that bin Ladin uses his left hand on many occasions throughout the video, from gesturing or touching his face, to apparently complex actions like adjusting his clothing. None of this definitively shows he was able to write with that hand, but equally there’s no obvious injury that would rule that out.

On the other hand, bin Ladin does clearly favour his right side, and that has similarities with other reports. Here's a comment about a December 2001 video, for instance, taken after the disputed one (we believe).

Osama bin Ladin' health appears to deteriorate with each new videotape broadcast. The December videotape clearly shows bin Ladin with a whiter beard and a gaunt face. Significantly, bin Ladin, who is left-handed, does not move his left hand or his left side in the 34-minute video.

CNN carried this photo and caption to a 2002 story.


Videotapes showing the left-handed Osama bin Ladin gesturing with his right hand led some viewers to believe that his left arm was injured.

And here's a quote from a New Yorker story of 2003:

Specialists have tried to explain why bin Ladin stopped videotaping himself. “He seemed possibly injured on his left side in the last videotape,” Matthew Levitt, a former F.B.I. anti-terrorism specialist, told me. Others have noted that, although bin Ladin is left-handed, in his last video he perched his Kalashnikov rifle next to his right side. He also failed to gesticulate as much as he usually did when he spoke. In the past, when bin Laden was ill he avoided being photographed, evidently careful never to project a weakened image.

This doesn’t prove anything, obviously. But given that we have both a video clip apparently of bin Ladin writing with his right hand, and a possible reason why he may not be able to use his left, the right-handedness of the confession video bin Ladin may not be particularly significant.

[Home] [Hijackers] [Foreknowledge] [Stand down] [WTC (demolition)] [WTC (other)] [WTC7 and Silverstein] [Pentagon] [Flight 93] [bin Ladin] [Obstructing Justice] [Afghanistan] [Others] [Investigations, more] [What's New?]