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Is Hamza bin Laden Al-Qaeda’s next leader?

Hamza bin Laden
DUBAI: The new audio message by Hamza bin Laden, son of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, was released 11 days after the fifth anniversary of the latter’s assassination in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011. The new message did not mention the anniversary, but offered “advice” for “martyrdom-seekers in the West.”
Hamza encouraged Al-Qaeda followers to launch attacks on their own and “inflict damage far beyond anything the enemy has ever imagined.” The audio message came a few days after a video message by Qasim Al-Raymi, head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who also encouraged Al-Qaeda followers in the West to carry out “lone jihad” attacks.
It was AQAP that first launched “lone wolf” attacks, when Maj. Nidal Hasan of the US Army killed 13 people at a military base in Texas in 2009. But Daesh has been more successful in this regard. The messages from Al-Raymi and Hamza are most likely part of Al-Qaeda’s efforts to regain what it has lost to Daesh.
It is clear from the messages released by Al-Qaeda in the past two years that it is trying to protect and preserve the legacy of Osama bin Laden amid the rise of Daesh.
Al-Qaeda has been greatly weakened financially and operationally over the past 15 years, due to global initiatives against terror financing and unabated attacks against its leaders, mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
The killing of Osama bin Laden struck a sharp blow to the organization’s internal structure. It is believed that Al-Qaeda today is more de-centralized. Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s lackluster persona as the current leader and his constant hiding has added to the group’s weakness.
Its branches and offshoots today are caught up in their local agendas beyond Al-Zawahiri’s influence, as seen in the Nusra Front in Syria splitting from Al-Qaeda and claiming to be a local, independent body with the same ideology. AQAP is focusing on Yemen, though it has planned attacks in the West, including the US and France.
In most of Hamza’s audio messages, he refers to Al-Zawahiri as his “emir” (leader), implying that Al-Zawahiri is a legitimate heir to his father’s legacy and that all Al-Qaeda branches should view him as such. Hamza’s audio messages are likely to have had Al-Zawahiri’s consent, which indicates that the former is still under the latter’s shadow. It is more about giving Al-Zawahiri the power he needs than preparing Hamza as the next leader of Al-Qaeda.
Hamza has released many audio messages since 2015. In most of them, he appeared very similar to his father in terms of the issues he addressed and the way he spoke, using the same tone and phrases. Although Hamza was kept very close by his father, perhaps preparing him to carry on his mission, being his son is not enough to include him in the line of contenders if Al-Zawahiri dies; other senior Al-Qaeda members are already in line.
DUBAI: The new audio message by Hamza bin Laden, son of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, was released 11 days after the fifth anniversary of the latter’s assassination in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011. The new message did not mention the anniversary, but offered “advice” for “martyrdom-seekers in the West.”
Hamza encouraged Al-Qaeda followers to launch attacks on their own and “inflict damage far beyond anything the enemy has ever imagined.” The audio message came a few days after a video message by Qasim Al-Raymi, head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who also encouraged Al-Qaeda followers in the West to carry out “lone jihad” attacks.
It was AQAP that first launched “lone wolf” attacks, when Maj. Nidal Hasan of the US Army killed 13 people at a military base in Texas in 2009. But Daesh has been more successful in this regard. The messages from Al-Raymi and Hamza are most likely part of Al-Qaeda’s efforts to regain what it has lost to Daesh.
It is clear from the messages released by Al-Qaeda in the past two years that it is trying to protect and preserve the legacy of Osama bin Laden amid the rise of Daesh.
Al-Qaeda has been greatly weakened financially and operationally over the past 15 years, due to global initiatives against terror financing and unabated attacks against its leaders, mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
The killing of Osama bin Laden struck a sharp blow to the organization’s internal structure. It is believed that Al-Qaeda today is more de-centralized. Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s lackluster persona as the current leader and his constant hiding has added to the group’s weakness.
Its branches and offshoots today are caught up in their local agendas beyond Al-Zawahiri’s influence, as seen in the Nusra Front in Syria splitting from Al-Qaeda and claiming to be a local, independent body with the same ideology. AQAP is focusing on Yemen, though it has planned attacks in the West, including the US and France.
In most of Hamza’s audio messages, he refers to Al-Zawahiri as his “emir” (leader), implying that Al-Zawahiri is a legitimate heir to his father’s legacy and that all Al-Qaeda branches should view him as such. Hamza’s audio messages are likely to have had Al-Zawahiri’s consent, which indicates that the former is still under the latter’s shadow. It is more about giving Al-Zawahiri the power he needs than preparing Hamza as the next leader of Al-Qaeda.
Hamza has released many audio messages since 2015. In most of them, he appeared very similar to his father in terms of the issues he addressed and the way he spoke, using the same tone and phrases. Although Hamza was kept very close by his father, perhaps preparing him to carry on his mission, being his son is not enough to include him in the line of contenders if Al-Zawahiri dies; other senior Al-Qaeda members are already in line.

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