Hamza bin LadenIntelligence officials in the United States have received information that al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden's son Hamza had died, according to a US broadcaster. NBC reported on 31 July 2019 that three US officials had confirmed they had information of Hamza bin Laden's death, but gave no details of the date or place, and did not indicate if they had confirmed the information. The New York Times newspaper also reported that the US had a role in the operation that led to Hamza's death, which it said took place in the past two years.
Hamza bin Laden was the son of deceased former AQ leader Usama bin Laden and was emerging as a leader in the AQ franchise. Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan by US Navy Seals in a mission codenamed Operation Neptune Spear. At the time, officials stated that Osama's body was later buried at sea. The al-Qaeda group confirmed Osama's death a few days afterward.
The US State Department announced 28 February 2019 that it was offering a reward of "up to $1 million" for information leading to the capture of Hamza bin Laden, the 29-30-year-old son of infamous al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Thought to be around 30 years old, Hamza was alongside his father in Afghanistan before the September 11 attacks and the pair spent time together in Pakistan after the elder bin Laden fled following the US-led invasion in 2001. Like his late father, who was killed by US Navy SEALs in a raid in a Pakistan suburb in 2011, Hamza was an aspiring terrorist leader. In a 2005 video, when he was just 14 years old, Hamza was shown participating in an al-Qaeda attack against Pakistani security forces in the Waziristan border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Two years later, a militant confirmed to AFP that Hamza remained in the region fighting alongside al-Qaeda militants, where he had advanced in rank.
On August 14, 2015 Hamza bin Lade was officially announced by al-Qa’ida senior leader Ayman al-Zawahiri as an official member of the group. In this 2015 audio message from al-Zawahiri, bin Laden called for acts of terrorism in western capitals. On July 9, 2016, al-Qa’ida issued another audio message from Hamza bin Laden threatening revenge against the United States and warned Americans they would be targeted in the United States and abroad. Specifically, in 2015, bin Laden called for lone offender attacks against U.S., French, and Israeli interests in Washington, D.C.; Paris, France; and Tel Aviv, Israel. Additionally, in 2016, bin Laden called on Saudi Arabian-based tribes to unite with al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Yemen to wage war against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations Security Council committee concerning al-Qaeda added Hamza to its sanctions list. In a statement the committee explained its move was the result of Hamza being "given a more prominent role within al-Qaeda." The decision subjects Hamza to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo.
Analysts said the younger bin Laden provided a youthful voice for al-Qaeda, whose ageing leaders have struggled to inspire potential recruits around the world as successfully as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
By 2015-2016, and Hamza was releasing audio tapes encouraging jihadists worldwide to "unite the ranks of the mujahedin" to wage war in Syria, and calling for lone wolf attacks against Russians, Americans, Europeans, and Jews. In 2016, Hamza recorded a video address in which he vowed to take revenge against the US for killing his father.
Hamza’s call for unity among jihadi fighters was likely a renewed strategy to garner more supporters. In May 2016, he stated, “There is no longer an excuse for those who insist on division and disputes, now that the whole world has mobilized against Muslims.” Since ISIS declared its so-called “caliphate” in 2014, al-Qa’ida has been undermining ISIS’s legitimacy and attempting to recruit ISIS defectors, as well as new members.
On January 5, 2017, the Department of State designated Hamza bin Laden as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224. As a result of the designation, all of Hamza bin Laden’s assets based in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with him.
The 2017 uptick in propaganda from Hamza bin Ladin was an attempt to inspire sympathizers to execute attacks in the West, secure his position as a future al-Qa’ida leader, and attract supporters. Since Hamza’s public introduction in 2015, he had produced six audio messages — two were released in the past month.
On 13 May 2017, Hamza bin Ladin released a 10-minute audio message, instructing lone actors to attack the West. He prioritized attacking the United States, “Jewish interests,” NATO coalition members, and Russia, advising supporters to seek tactical guidance from Inspire—al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language magazine.
In May 2017, al-Qa’ida declared Hamza a “Sheikh,” reaffirming his leadership role within the organization while also recognizing him as a religious figurehead. Additionally, Hamza emphasized similar themes as Usama — namely, the liberation of Palestine, overthrowing the Saudi regime, and the importance of unity among the global Muslim community — indicating he aspired to lead the global jihadi movement, much like his father.
In late 2017, Hamza reportedly founded a new Islamist splinter cell known as the 'Jama'at Ansar al-Furqan in Bilad al Sham', an al-Qaeda allied terror group operating in northern Syria consisting of former Nusra Front and Daesh (ISIS) elements. The group reportedly participated in fighting in Syria's Idlib province, and declared war on just about everyone, from Syria and Russia to secular Arab governments in the Middle East, to Turkey, the US, the UK and Shia militias.
In addition to his war against the Russian, Arab and Western enemies of jihad, Hamza, who was born in Jeddah in 1989, raised eyebrows in 2016 after calling for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy. The appeal prompted Saudi authorities to denounce Hamza as a terrorist, and to stress that he was a Saudi only by birth, not by citizenship, having been stripped of the latter in 2016.
Despite his alleged participation in al-Qaeda operations since his teenage years, the US State Department was quite late in designating Hamza a terrorist, doing so only in January 2017. Hamza was classified as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), a designation which would block any property bin Laden may have had in the US, restrict his movement and his ability to engage in economic activity with US nationals.
In 2018, bin Laden's relatives told UK media that Hamza, already thought to be married to the daughter of high-ranking veteran al-Qaeda member Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah since 2006, had married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker of the 9/11 terror attacks who personally flew a plane into the World Trade Center. Two of bin-Laden's half-brothers, Ahmad al-Attas and Hassan al-Attas, said they had heard Hamza married the young woman, an Egyptian national presumed to be in her late teens or early 20s, possibly in Afghanistan. However, Omar bin Laden, the fourth son of the former al-Qaeda leader, denied the marriage, suggesting he remained married to his first wife.
Intelligence experts had spoken about Hamza's potential role as a recruitment lightning rod for al-Qaeda amid its conflict with Daesh. Yoram Schweitzer, a senior fellow in the terrorism program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said Hamza was "the most important remaining relative of bin Laden," and a "symbolic figure" in al-Qaeda's campaign to unify jihadists against Daesh. "I think Hamza is trying to be presented as one of its true leaders, the military commander and public figure of al-Qaeda," Schweitzer said.
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