Trump confirms death of Al-Qaeda heir Hamza bin Laden

Ben Riley-Smith
Hamza's death was first reported in July - CIA

Donald Trump on Saturday confirmed that Hamza bin Laden, the son of former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, was killed in a US counter-terrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

The White House released a statement in the US president's name announcing the death but provided no other details, such as when he was killed or how he had died.  

The younger bin Laden had been playing an increasingly prominent role in the terrorist organisation but had not been heard from since March 2018. 

US media reported his death over the summer and Mark Esper, the Defense Secretary, appeared to confirm it in an interview in August. But Mr Trump’s statement makes it official. 

“The loss of Hamza bin Ladin not only deprives al-Qaida of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group,” the statement read. 

“Hamza bin Ladin was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups.”

As al-Qaida's leader, Osama bin Laden oversaw a string of attacks on American targets, most notoriously the September 11 2011 terrorist atrocity which killed 2,977 people. 

Hamza bin Laden is believed to have been born in 1989, the year of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where his father became known among the mujahedeen fighters.

The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 which followed the 9/11 attack saw the bin Laden family separate as they went on the run to avoid capture. 

Hamza bin Ladin last saw his father aged 12, once writing of their split: “It was as if we pulled out our livers and left them there.”

In May 2011, a US Navy Seal team raided Abbottabad, killing Osama bin Laden and his son Khalid, as well as others. Hamza was not among the dead. 

He resurfaced in a video in August 2015 on jihadi websites in which Ayman al-Zawahri, the group's leader, introduced him as "a lion from the den of al-Qaida". 

Since then, Hamza had been featured in al-Qaida messages, delivering speeches on everything from the war in Syria to Mr Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as president. But he had posted no message since March 2018. 

This February the US government offered $1 million for help tracking down Hamza bin Laden as part of the State Department's Rewards for Justice program.