LONDON (Reuters) -- Some of the closest relatives of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are living in a secret compound in Iran, Britain's "The Times" newspaper has reported.
The group includes a wife and children who disappeared from bin Laden's Afghan camp at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001, the report added.
It said other relatives found out last month that the group, including one of bin Laden's wives, six of his children, and 11 of his grandchildren, had been kept in a high-security compound outside Tehran for the past eight years.
"The Times" quoted Omar bin Laden, 29, who it said was the Al-Qaeda leader's fourth-eldest son, as saying he had no idea that his brothers and sisters were still alive until they called him in November.
They told him how they had fled Afghanistan just before the 9/11 attacks and walked to the Iranian border. They were taken to a walled compound outside Tehran where guards said they were not allowed to leave "for their own safety".
One of the children, a daughter called Iman, had recently escaped during a rare trip outside the compound and made her way to the Saudi Arabian Embassy. She is now living there while seeking permission to leave Iran.
Omar bin Laden said that his relatives lived as normal a life as possible, cooking meals, watching television and reading. They were allowed out only rarely for shopping trips.
As a number of families are being held in the compound some of the older siblings have been able to marry and have their own children.
"The Iranian Government did not know what to do with this large group of people that nobody else wanted, so they just kept them safe. For that we owe them much gratitude, and thank Iran from the depth of our heart," he said.
He now hopes that the family will be given permission to leave Iran and join his mother, brother and two sisters in Syria, or himself and his wife in Qatar.
U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of Saudi-born bin Laden. Bin Laden has never been found and is believed to still be hiding in the mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.