Hamza bin Laden’s death “significantly damages Al Qaeda’s plans for moving to the second generation,” said one expert.
Rabat – Hamza bin Laden, the son and heir of Al Qaeda‘s founder Osama bin Laden, has been reportedly killed in an airstrike. The news came on Thursday, July 31, from three US officials who agreed to discuss his death with US media on the condition of anonymity.
While the details remain scarce the officials did confirm that “the United States government played a role,” and that death occurred “sometime during the first two years of the Trump administration.”
In February, the US State Department announced it would pay as much as $1 million for information on Hamza bin Laden’s whereabouts, as his death had not yet been confirmed.
The department’s Rewards for Justice Program described the Hamza bin Laden as “an emerging al Qaeda leader” who “has threatened attacks against the United States and allies.”
In September 2017 article, counterterrorism expert and former FBI agent, Ali Soufan, echoed a similar statement. “Hamza is being prepared for a leadership role in the organization his father founded” and is “likely to be perceived favorably by the jihadi rank-and-file,” he said.
“With the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ apparently on the verge of collapse, Hamza is now the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement.”
Commenting on the announcement of his death, Soufan warned the US government not to confirm anything too soon – as it is unusual for Al Qaeda to not announce the death of a leader and celebrate him as a martyr.
However, he added that if the US officials are correct, “it significantly damages Al Qaeda’s plans for moving to the second generation.”
Was Hamza bin Laden Al Qaeda’s Next Leader?
The young bin Laden, who is believed to have been born around 1989, was added to the US’ official terrorist two years ago. Many speculated Al Qaeda was priming him to be his father’s successor.
In 2011, his father Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was responsible for the four attacks on the US on 11 September 2001, which killed nearly 3,000. The terror attacks are the deadliest ever on US soil.
Intelligence reports that after his assassination, two of Al Qaeda’s top lieutenants began grooming Hamza bin Laden for a leadership role. He married the daughter of one of these lieutenants and pledged to avenge his father’s death.
In recent years, al-Qaeda released 11 audio messages from Hamza bin Laden in which he threatened the US, called for attacks and encouraged jihadist action in Syria.
The high price put on Hamza bin Laden’s head by the US shows the potential threat he could have posed. The CIA has already confirmed the death of two of his brothers, Saad bin Laden, who was killed in a drone strike in 2009 while he was operating in a remote area of Pakistan and Khalid, who was killed in the 2011 Abbottabad raid.
However, the US is still hunting for Ayman al-Zawahri, who assumed the Qaeda leadership mantle after Osama bin Laden’s death.