Hamza bin Laden killed in US counter-terrorism operation, White House says
Osama bin Laden’s son had been viewed as an heir to the leadership of al Qaida.
Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al Qaida leader Osama, has been killed in a US counter-terrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, White House officials have said.
He had become an increasingly prominent figure in the terrorist organisation behind the September 11 attacks.
A statement from US officials gave no further details such as when bin Laden was killed or how authorities were able to confirm his death.
The White House said Hamza bin Laden’s death “not only deprives al Qaida of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group”.
As leader of al Qaida, Osama bin Laden and others plotted the attacks of September 11 2001. US Navy SEALs killed the elder bin Laden in a raid on a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
Several US officials had suspected this summer that Hamza bin Laden was dead, based on intelligence reports and the fact that he had not been heard from in some time.
Defence secretary Mark Esper told Fox News Channel in late August that it was his understanding that Hamza bin Laden was dead.
The younger bin Laden had been viewed as an eventual heir to the leadership of al Qaida, and the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, had praised him in a 2015 video that appeared on jihadi websites, calling him a “lion from the den of al Qaida”.
The US government in February said it was offering one million dollars for help tracking down Hamza bin Laden as part of the state department’s Rewards for Justice scheme.
The department said he was married to a daughter of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, an Egyptian al Qaida leader charged over his role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa.
They were said to have two children, Osama and Khairiah, named after his parents.
He was named a “specially designated global terrorist” in January 2017, and he had released audio and video messages calling for attacks against the US and its allies.
To mark one 9/11 anniversary, al Qaida superimposed a childhood photo of him over an image of the World Trade Centre.
Video released by the CIA in 2017 that was seized during the 2011 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden showed Hamza bin Laden with a trimmed moustache but no beard at his wedding. Previous images have only shown him as a child.
Hamza bin Laden is believed to have been born in 1989, the year of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where his father became known among the mujahideen fighters.
His father returned to Saudi Arabia and later fled to Sudan after criticising the kingdom for allowing US troops to deploy in the country during the 1991 Gulf War.
He later fled Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996, where he declared war against the US.
As al Qaida’s leader, Osama bin Laden oversaw attacks that included the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.
He and others plotted and executed the 2001 attacks against the United States that led to the invasion of Afghanistan. US Navy SEALs killed the elder bin Laden in a raid on a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
This past March, Saudi Arabia announced that it had revoked the citizenship of Hamza bin Laden. The kingdom stripped Osama bin Laden’s citizenship in 1994 while he was living in exile in Sudan when Hamza bin Laden was just a child. It is unclear where Hamza bin Laden was at the time of the Saudi action.
Hamza bin Laden began appearing in militant videos and recordings in 2015 as an al Qaida spokesman.
“If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” he said in his first audio recording.
After the September 11 attacks, a US-led invasion of Afghanistan sought to topple the Taliban, an ally of al Qaida, and seize the elder bin Laden.
He escaped and split from his family as he crossed into Pakistan. Hamza was 12 when he saw his father for the last time — receiving a parting gift of prayer beads.
“It was as if we pulled out our livers and left them there,” he wrote of the separation.
Hamza and his mother followed other al Qaida members into Pakistan and then Iran, where other al Qaida leaders hid them, according to documents seized by US forces.
Iran later put the al Qaida members on its soil into custody. During this time, Hamza married.
In March 2010, Hamza and others left Iranian custody. He went to Pakistan’s Waziristan province, where he asked for weapons training, according to a letter to the elder bin Laden.
His mother left for Abbottabad, joining her husband in his hideout. On May 2 2011, the Navy SEAL team raided Abbottabad, killing Osama bin Laden and his son Khalid, as well as others.
Saber and other wives living in the house were imprisoned. Hamza again disappeared.
In August 2015, a video emerged on jihadi websites of al-Zawahri introducing “a lion from the den of al Qaida” – Hamza bin Laden.
Since then, Hamza had been featured in al-Qaida messages, delivering speeches on everything from the war in Syria to Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as president.
He had not been heard from since a message in March 2018, in which he threatened the rulers of Saudi Arabia.