Osama bin Laden, the founder and head of the Islamist group, Al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, but the terror network he founded did not end with his death. Instead, it may just be emerging, stronger than ever before, as one of his sons is now being considered its new leader.
Hamza bin Laden, said to be 28 years old, disappeared for years after he reportedly saw his father for the last time when he was 12 years old, but re-emerged in 2015, praising lone wolf attacks. Officials now believe he has been groomed to take on a leadership role in his father’s terror organization during the absence and is considered the best person in line to reunify the global jihadi movement.
An exclusive report published Thursday, Sep. 7, by the Combating Terrorism Center, explains that Hamza bin Laden was one of Osama bin Laden’s favorite sons, and is now poised to take his father’s place.
Osama bin Laden said good bye to three of his young sons in an emotional ceremony in November 2001 in Afghanistan. The report states the father handed each of his sons a set of prayer beads and “instructed them to keep the faith.” The three brothers ended up taking three different paths in life.
One son, Bakr, ended up deserting the Al-Qaida network and distancing himself from the group.
The second son, Khalid, died trying to protect his father in the raid on their compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011, where his father was also killed.
Hamza, the third son, has now emerged as the likely new leader of his father’s terror group.
Hamza bin Laden’s mother, Khairia Sabar, was also considered one of Osama bin Laden’s favorite wives. Khairia was a child psychologist from a well-respected al-Hindi family in Saudi Arabia and was in her mid-30s and of fragile health when Osama met her. He was reportedly seven years younger than Sabar and had two other wives when he married her. Their only child together, Hamza, was born in 1989.
As a child, Hamza appeared in several propaganda videos filmed at a compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan, alongside his father, was included in assault training with Al-Qaeda fighters, and “preached fiery sermons in a young boy’s helium voice,” the CTC report states.
Fearing for their safety, Osama ordered his wives and their younger children out of his Kandahar compound on Sep. 10, 2011, just one day before the 9/11 terror attack, as he expected a serious backlash from the United States. They were moved 350 miles away to Jalalabad where one last propaganda video was filmed featuring Hamza, as he recited a poem, praising the bravery of Taliban fighters handling wreckage claimed to be a downed U.S. helicopter.
Over the years, Hamza’s mother, Khairia, made sure her son received the “best possible education,” as they were held at various military facilities in the Tehran area, until Hamza and his family were released by Iran in August 2010 in a prison swap arrangement.
Before his father was killed in 2011, Hamza was in the process of rejoining his father, but his father was killed before the two were able to reunite. His mother, Khairia, was taken into custody on May 2, 2011 in Pakistan, and later deported to Saudi Arabia, where she still lives in a compound outside Jeddah under very tight security.
In 2015, Hamza bin Laden, who was in his 20s, released an audio, calling for attacks on the west. According to a translation, he stated in the audio, “Take the battlefield from Kabul, Baghdad, and Gaza to Washington, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv, and to take it to all the American, Jewish, and Western interests in the world.”
Analysts say this was a clear sign that Hamza bin Laden is being groomed to take over a leadership role in the Al Qaeda terror network.
The CTC report states:
Hamza’s messages frequently repeat, almost word-for-word, sentences uttered by the elder bin Ladin during al-Qa`ida’s heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This tendency can be heard, for example, in Hamza’s diatribes on the Palestinian Territories, on what he calls the “occupation” of Saudi Arabia, and on the idea that the United States is “stealing” the wealth of the Muslim world. (President Trump, no doubt unwittingly, played into the last of these narrative strands on his visit to Saudi Arabia, when he thanked King Salman for his “massive investment in America, its industry, and its jobs” and boasted of a new arms deal that would transfer a further $110 billion to U.S. companies.65) Hamza even makes an effort to sound like his father, intoning his words with the same quiet intensity.
Hamza’s face has not been made public since the last propaganda video in which he appeared when he was just 12 years old. But CBS News hired a forensic artist, Stephen Mancusi, to apply an age-progression technique to his earlier pictures to get an idea what he might look like today. The age-progression image shows him looking very much like his father at the same age.
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