Trump confirms bin Laden’s son Hamza killed in US counter-terrorism operation

Special Trump confirms bin Laden’s son Hamza killed in US counter-terrorism operation
This file photo taken on November 01, 2017, released by the CIA, shows an image from the wedding of Hamza Bin Laden, the son of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. (Handout/Federation For Defense Of Democracies via AFP)
Updated 14 September 2019

Trump confirms bin Laden’s son Hamza killed in US counter-terrorism operation

Trump confirms bin Laden’s son Hamza killed in US counter-terrorism operation
  • Arab News reported in early August that Hamza was killed in an airstrike on the Afghan-Pakistan border
  • Experts say his death is a symbolic blow to Al-Qaeda

DUBAI: US President Donald Trump confirmed on Saturday that Hamza bin Laden, the son of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, was killed in a counter-terrorism operation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Hamza was an active Al-Qaeda member, introduced to the world by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in an audio message in 2015, in a bid to capitalize on his father’s legacy, and to seek legitimacy after the emergence of Daesh.
“The loss of Hamza bin Laden not only deprives Al-Qaeda of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.
US media reported in early August, citing intelligence officials, that the younger Bin Laden had been killed sometime in the last two years in an operation that involved the United States.
On July 31, 2019, NBS news reported that Hamza, believed to be 30 years old, had died, quoting three US officials who said they had obtained intelligence that confirmed his death had taken place some time in the last two years. 
Since then, a senior Pakistani source confirmed to Arab News in early August, that he had died “more than a year ago.” 
“Hamza has died in Afghanistan, somewhere near the border with Pakistan, but it is unclear at this stage as to how he died,” he said.
A tribal source in Afghanistan around the same time, also told Arab News that Hamza was killed in an airstrike.
“Hamza was in a house when the airstrike happened, and the locals only know that a young Persian-speaking man was killed, along with a Taliban activist in that strike,” the tribal source said, and added that the apparent target was an Afghan Taliban member named Abdul Rauf.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed the death later last month, saying it was his “understanding” that Bin Laden was dead, but Trump and other senior officials had not publicly confirmed the news.
Bin Laden’s son was used to inspire and recruit militants in a total of 11 messages released mostly in 2016 and 2017, where he called on militants to attack the West.
His last message was released in March 2018 where he asked his followers to attack Jews, Americans, and Russians.
Veteran Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain told Arab News that Hamza’s death would be a symbolic blow to Al-Qaeda, which had been struggling to gain footing under Al-Zawahiri.
“Hamza was more of a symbolic leader and was not of a kind who could revitalize Al-Qaeda,” Hussain said, adding that “Ayman Al-Zawahiri remained the main leader. His reported death nevertheless will be a setback for the group.”
The US had previously refused to confirm Hamza’s death, but said nothing had been heard of him after the March 2018 message.
As recently as February this year, the US State Department, which designated Hamza bin Laden a global terrorist in 2017, announced it would pay as much as $1 million for information leading to his whereabouts.
The department’s Rewards for Justice Program described him as “an emerging Al-Qaeda leader” who “has threatened attacks against the US and allies.”
Muhammad Amir Rana, a security analyst and director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, believes that reports of Hamza’s death will deal a blow to Al-Qaeda.
“He was among the core leadership of the organization and was ambitious to restructure the militant wing of Al-Qaeda ... that is why Hamza bin Laden was considered one of the future leaders,” Rana told Arab News.
He added it was an important year for US politics before the next presidential elections in November 2020, where President Donald Trump will be seeking re-election.
“Initial candidate level debates have started in the US, and this (Hamza’s death) might be a topic of discussion,” he said.
Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces who raided his compound in Pakistan in 2011.