HOUSTON- For years, the bin Laden family was very familiar with Houston hospitality.

The once-wealthiest non-royal family from Saudi Arabia reportedly owned a house in Houston s River Oaks area, but that s not all, said Joan Neuhaus Schaan, a terrorism expert with the Baker Institute.

She says many Saudi families found Houston appealing in the 1970s and 80s.

Texas was the center of the oil industry, Schaan said.

The bin Ladens would discover that the energy capital could make them even richer.

It was only natural that with the bin Laden family, being in construction and being tied to civil engineering projects that they would also find Houston a comfortable place to operate, Schaan said.

The family was headed by Muhammed bin Laden, who died in 1967. The oldest son was Salem, and then Osama.

The family had 18 other sons.

The bin Laden family is a very large family, with many different interests, in many different places, Schaan said.

She said it was big brother Salem who picked Houston, arriving here in 1973 to start several companies.

There was Binladen Aviation, Binladen Houston and Binladen Brothers for Construction.

Even after he died in 1988, Salem bin Laden had holdings in the Houston Gulf Airport in League City. It was sold and was turned into a subdivision.

The bin Laden family reportedly cut ties with Osama when he became a terrorist, but there is one unanswered question.

We re all interested in knowing that extent his family may have supported him in that, whether it was official support, or unofficial support, Schaan said.

The bin Ladens left Texas after 9/11 and haven t been seen in the area since.