Hamza bin Laden, one of the sons of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is dead, American media reported on Wednesday.
Two officials from the United States told The New York Times that the government had a role in the operation that killed Hamza bin Laden, who was expected to eventually take over the leadership of al Qaeda. But there were no details of when or where he was killed. He is believed to have been killed in either 2017 or 2018, during the first two years of the Donald Trump administration.
This would mean that he was killed even before the United States imposed sanctions on him in February. The sanction described him as the “most probable successor” of the al Qaeda’s current leader Aiman al-Zawahiri. The United States had also announced a reward of up to $1 million (over Rs 7 crore) for information on him, with the US State Department saying Hamza bin Laden was “emerging as a leader” in the al Qaeda.
Trump refused to comment on the matter on Wednesday, according to the BBC. National Security Adviser John Bolton also denied comment.
Some experts speculated about the significance of this killing as Hamza bin Laden had not yet taken over the reins of al Qaeda or done anything significant.
“They were clearly grooming him to be a next generation successor,” Peter Bergen, al Qaeda expert and director of the international security programme at the New America Foundation, told The Guardian. “Aiman al-Zawahiri hasn’t been a particularly effective leader. He’s got a sort of charisma deficit. And they were trying to put this guy forward.”
But, Bergen added: “Had he really done anything? Had he overseen any operation of any significance? It is an interesting question.”
The US had designated Hamza bin Laden a global terrorist in 2017 after he called for acts of terrorism in Western capitals and threatened to take revenge against the US for his father’s killing. He had also threatened to target Americans abroad and urged Saudi tribes to unite with Yemen’s al Qaeda to fight against Saudi Arabia.
Hamza bin Laden is the son of Khairiah Sabar, one of Osama bin Laden’s three surviving wives. Sabar was living with her husband when he was killed in Pakistan’s Abbottabad in a military operation in 2011, a decade after the 9/11 attacks. Hamza bin Laden, who is suspected to be around 30 years old, was reported to have been living in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and even Iran in the past.
Osama bin Laden’s wives and other children have gone back to Saudi Arabia, where they were given refuge by the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. They reportedly still stay in touch with bin Laden’s mother, Alia Ghanem.
In August 2018, reports had emerged that Hamza bin Laden had married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the chief hijacker in the 9/11 terror attacks.