White House confirms Osama bin Laden's son killed in US operation

It is believed that Hamza bin Laden was being groomed as heir to the al-Qaeda leadership following his father's death.

    Hamza bin Laden had put out audio and video messages calling for attacks on the US and other countries, especially to avenge his father's death [File: Federation for Defense of Democracies Handout via Reuters]
    Hamza bin Laden had put out audio and video messages calling for attacks on the US and other countries, especially to avenge his father's death [File: Federation for Defense of Democracies Handout via Reuters]

    The White House has confirmed the death of Hamza bin Laden, son of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and himself a notable figure in the group.

    The younger bin Laden was killed in a US counterterrorism operation, a statement released on Saturday said, adding that the operation took place in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

    The death of Hamza bin Laden "not only deprives al-Qa'ida [sic] of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group," said the statement. 

    In July, NBC reported that intelligence officials in the United States had received information that Hamza bin Laden had been killed, but gave no details of the date or place. 

    The New York Times also reported that the US had a role in the operation that led to his death, which it said had taken place in the last two years. 

    The White House did not confirm or deny the reports at the time. 

    Saturday's confirmation came three days after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks - masterminded by Osama bin Laden - in which nearly 3,000 people were killed.

    Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation by US forces in Pakistan in May 2011.

    Up-and-coming leader

    In February, the US government put a $1m reward on Hamza bin Laden's head, saying the man sometimes dubbed the "crown prince of jihad" was "emerging as a leader in the al-Qaeda franchise".

    He had put out audio and video messages calling for attacks on the US and other countries, especially to avenge his father's death.

    In 2017, the US added Hamza to its counterterrorism blacklist.

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    Documents seized in the raid on his father's house in Abbottabad, in Pakistan's northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, suggested that Hamza bin Laden was being groomed as heir to the al-Qaeda leadership, according to the US State Department.

    He was at his father's side before the 9/11 attacks and spent time with him in Pakistan after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan pushed much of al-Qaeda's senior leadership there, according to the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

    US forces also found a video of the younger bin Laden's wedding to the daughter of another senior al-Qaeda official. He is thought to have been 30 years old at the time of his death.

    Hamza bin Laden's whereabouts had never been publicly confirmed. He was believed to have been under house arrest in Iran, but reports suggested he also may have lived in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

    In March, Saudi Arabia announced it had stripped him of his citizenship, saying the decision was made by a royal order in November 2018.

    Al-Qaeda's prominence as an armed group has faded over the past decade following the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

    However, branches and affiliated armed fighters in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere are evidence of its enduring influence.

    I knew bin Laden

    Al Jazeera World

    I knew bin Laden

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies