The CIA has published a list of video games played by Osama bin Laden

The CIA has published a list of video games played by Osama bin Laden

In the aftermath of 9/11 and at the height of the War on Terror, Osama bin Laden was the ultimate bogeyman of the free world. The founder of al-Qaeda, who masterminded the worst terrorist attack on American soil, was hated and feared in equal measure. For 10 years the FBI, the CIA, and two presidential administrations made capturing or killing him their highest priority. However, the fact remains that the majority of people know very little about the man himself.

When you picture Osama bin Laden, you probably imagine him towards the end of his life: wearing a white Yemeni keffiyeh, squatting in a hidden compound and decrying the decadence of the western world. But bin Laden was actually born to a wealthy Saudi family. His father was a billionaire who owned a construction company and he had close ties to the royal family. A devout Muslim from an early age, his belief in God curdled into extremism during adulthood. Bin Laden was also a college student for a time, studying business management, and harboured a number of personal hobbies, including poetry, writing and literature. He was even a soccer fan, typically playing as a centre-forward and followed the British team Arsenal FC avidly.

We're still unearthing new details about him, but the latest revelation is probably the most surprising yet. The CIA has released a list of files found on a laptop recovered from bin Laden's last hiding place, and what they've found is pretty surprising. There's now some evidence that Osama was actually a bit of a nerd, who appears to have enjoyed video games, anime, and meme culture. The CIA made public more than 470,000 files found on the hard drive of a PC recovered from the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed in May 2011 by a squad of navy SEALs.

The eclectic stash of documents gives us a candid look at the structure, organisation, and allies of al-Qaeda. But even more surprising is the idea that bin Laden would turn to video games during his downtime. Games found on the drive include Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Resident Evil, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Super Mario Bros. Most interesting of all, bin Laden's Steam library also featured a copy of the first-person shooter game Counter-Strike, in which players can choose to play as either a strike team or as terrorists.

The computer also contained files for episodes of several different anime series, including Naruto, Dragon Ball, and Bleach, as well as movies such as Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Antz, Cars, and several episodes of cartoons like Tom and Jerry and  British sitcom Mr Bean. Interestingly enough, it appears that he also watched a documentary about himself entitled In the Footsteps of bin Laden, as well as a number of viral videos, such as Charlie Bit My Finger and 28 crocheting tutorials.

However, researchers have cautioned the public not the jump to conclusions and believe that every single file on the laptop belonged exclusively to bin Laden himself. A lot of people in the Abbottabad compound may have had access to it. Bin Laden lived with threes wives in the secret safe house and had more than a dozen children, who ranged from infants to teens.

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, stated: "It’s like, ‘ooh Osama bin Laden is a Tom and Jerry fan!’ And maybe he is, it’s quite possible. I like Tom and Jerry too. But I suspect a lot of the sort of frivolous or the personal stuff was more for his family."

The CIA also recovered more useful material in their analysis of the hard drive. Other declassified documents include a video of bin Laden's son Hamza's wedding. Al-Qaeda has always tried to only publish photos of Hamza as a child with his father, in a bid to protect his identity. However, the valuable footage now shows him as a young adult and gives the agency a glimpse of the guests, which could be useful for tracking other al-Qaeda terrorists in the future.

Researchers also managed to find a 19-page report detailing al-Qaeda's apparent connections to Iran. All in all, over 174 gigabytes of video, 7.4 gigabytes of image files, and 18 gigabytes of documents were found on the laptop, and researchers are still disseminating the material. Who knows? Maybe you've fragged bin Laden in a Counter-Strike server, or even played on his team. But equally as bizarre as this, is the romantic novel written by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, which you can actually buy on Amazon.


Featured illustration by Egarcigu