Counter Terrorism Perspectives: CTP

MLM: "The ‘Emerging al-Qaeda Lion’ is No More: Hamza Bin Laden’s Demise is a Crucial Blow to al-Qaeda"

September 13, 2019

On July 31, news of Hamza bin Laden’s death surfaced with only partial comment from U.S. intelligence officials and al-Qaeda media sources (Dawn [Karachi], August 1). The original report citing unnamed U.S. officials did not confirm the date, place or circumstances that led to the death of the chosen son of Osama bin Laden, who was touted as the “crown prince of jihad” and future leader of al-Qaeda. Despite the high level of esteem he held in the organization, no confirmation of Hamza bin Laden’s death has emerged from either al-Qaeda’s official media source As Sahab or even in pro-al-Qaeda social media channels in Telegram. Pro-al-Qaeda jihadist circles cautioned sympathizers to not take this news at face value, labelling it as disinformation from Western intelligence. Among the senior al-Qaeda backers who almost immediately questioned the news of Hamza’s death were al-Muhajir al-Khorasani and Shibl al-Aqida, who run an al-Qaeda propaganda channel on Telegram. They warned that the news could be fake and a ploy to find out the location of their “beloved” Hamza. The clerics urged pro-al-Qaeda jihadists not to discuss the matter online (Telegram Messaging Service in Arabic via BBC News Monitoring, August 1).

Subsequent reporting on his alleged death continued to be sketchy and superficial, including vague speculation he was killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan or Pakistan that took place sometime in the past couple of years.

While it has not been confirmed conclusively, the news of Hamza bin Laden’s untimely demise is widely considered to be a blow to the future of al-Qaeda. In addition, the news received a stamp of approval on August 22 when U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper seemingly confirmed Hamza bin Laden’s death by cryptically answering “That’s my understanding” when asked about it (New Arab, August 23). However, he refused to provide details, thereby leaving room for speculation over when and how Hamza died and, most importantly, what it means for al-Qaeda’s future.

Hamza, who was in his early 30s, stormed onto the jihadist scene with an audio message in August 2015 exhorting Muslim youth worldwide to join the jihadist movement and carry out lone wolf attacks against the United States and its allies (including the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia). He never shied away from expressing his wish to avenge his father’s death in his powerful audio messages. Between his first and last audio-visual appearance in March 2018, he delivered over ten such messages under the al-Qaeda banner, which often tagged him as an “emerging lion.”

For Complete Article, Read, "The ‘Emerging al-Qaeda Lion’ is No More: Hamza Bin Laden’s Demise is a Crucial Blow to al-Qaeda", Militant Leadership Monitor, (Jamestown Foundation) Vol: 10 (7), September 5, 2019.