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Bin Laden's brother-in-law killed

Story Highlights

• Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden's brother-in-law, killed on a business trip to Madagascar
• Family members tell CNN they don't believe Saudi claims he was killed by locals
• Khalifa had recently denied links with Philippine Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf
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(CNN) -- The brother-in-law and former best friend of Osama bin Laden was killed while on a business trip to Madagascar, family members have told CNN.

Jamal Khalifa's family told CNN they were not sure of the details of the Saudi businessman's death but said all his possessions had been stolen.

Khalifa had arranged the trip in order to straighten out his affairs regarding a heavy plant equipment business he owned on the Indian Ocean island.

He had not visited Madagascar in five or six years and was concerned his equipment had been taken without payment, his family said.

Khalifa had also at one time worked to free a Madagascan friend from internment at Guantanamo Bay.

Khalifa's family told CNN they did not believe Saudi claims he had been killed by locals.

The Associated Press, quoting a telephone interview with Khalifa's brother, Malek Khalifa, said 25-30 armed men had broken into his house and killed him as he slept.

CNN's Nic Robertson said Khalifa's death raised questions over whether it happened as reported by Saudi officials, or, as his family feared, through more sinister means.

"Was he killed by bin Laden's associates for speaking out against the al Qaeda leader or, equally feasibly, by an international intelligence agency settling an old score?" said Robertson.

Khalifa had recently denied claims that he funded the Philippine-based Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf.

Khalifa was close to bin Laden from their days as students together in Jeddah in the 1970s through their involvement in the jihad opposing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

He claims he spent most of that time in Pakistan, setting up an Islamic relief charity, building schools and mosques for refugees displaced by the Afghan war.

In an interview with CNN in 2004, Khalifa, who was married to bin Laden's sister, said the pair had parted company in the late 1980s in disagreement over the worldwide jihad being planned by the future leader of al Qaeda and his advisers.

The pair remained in touch after Khalifa left Afghanistan. He last saw bin Laden on a family visit to Sudan in 1992.

But in recent years he had become more outspoken in his criticism of bin Laden.

In 2003 he published an open letter in a Saudi newspaper, asking bin Laden to renounce the terrorism being committed in his name.

"Please come out, tell those people to stop," Khalifa wrote. "You are the one who can tell that, and you are the one who can stop it."

Khalifa had been the target of an extraordinary amount of scrutiny because of his background.

In the Philippines, where he went from Afghanistan, officials charged in a 1994 report that he was using businesses and prominent Islamic charities as fronts to funnel money to terrorists.

No charges were filed, Col. Boogie Mendoza of the Philippine National Police, said, because at the time the Philippines had no anti-terrorism laws.

Khalifa's connection with Abu Sayyaf, responsible for a series of deadly attacks in the Philippines, was alleged in an interview with the group's late leader Khaddafy Janjalani published posthumously last week in the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.

In the February 2006 interview, Janjalani claimed Abu Sayyaf had received funds of 6 million Philippine pesos ($122,000) from Khalifa and Ramzi Yousuf, currently serving a life sentence for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

But Khalifa told CNN claims he had funded Abu Sayyaf in return for volunteers to fight in Afghanistan were "completely false."

"I have never given any money to any group or persons that include the Abu Sayyaf," he wrote in an e-mail.

"It is common knowledge that the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, the same year that Abu Sayyaf came to the news in the Philippines. It means that the Jihad was already over in Afghanistan."

-- CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.


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Khalifa died during a business trip to Madagascar, family members said.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Timeline: Chasing al Qaeda
• Timeline: Al Qaeda attacks
• Timeline: Bin Laden's messages
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