Hamza bin Laden

Hamza bin Laden was the son of Osama bin Laden and a prominent member of al-Qaeda who was reportedly groomed to one day serve as leader of the terrorist organization.Muna Khan, “The ‘Crown Prince of Terror’ who could be King,” Al-Arabiya, May 26, 2011, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/05/26/150646.html; Bruce Riedel, “Al-Qaeda Strikes Back,” Al-Monitor, July 27, 2017, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/alqaeda-saudi-arabia-attack-bin-laden-son-royal-family.html. Bin Laden has issued multiple statements on behalf of the terror group since officially joining in August 2015, though his appearance in al-Qaeda and Taliban propaganda dates back to at least 2001.“Bin Laden sons ‘fighting with Taleban’,” BBC News, November 8, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1644044.stm. Documents found in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed, indicate that the al-Qaeda founder had groomed Hamza for leadership within the terror group.“The Hunt For Osama’s Son Hamza Bin Laden,” Daily Beast, May 11, 2011, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/11/hamza-bin-laden-the-hunt-for-osamas-son-who-escaped-the-raid.html; Rohan Smith, “Hamza bin Laden’s rise through the ranks of the world’s most infamous terror family,” news.au, July 12, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/hamza-bin-ladens-rise-through-the-ranks-of-the-worlds-most-infamous-terror-family/news-story/5d0487c485617a9b4d07cae9bb1a1691. The U.S. Department of State designated Hamza bin Laden as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in January 2017.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Hamza bin Laden,” U.S. Department of State, January 5, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/01/266522.htm. He was believed to operate out of Pakistan.Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Osama bin Laden’s son praises al Qaeda’s branches in new message,” Long War Journal, August 17, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/08/osama-bin-ladens-son-praises-alqaeda-branches-in-new-message.php; Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, “Is bin Laden’s son being groomed for key al Qaeda role?,” CNN, May 13, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/13/world/bin-laden-son-al-qaeda/. On July 31, 2019, U.S. officials reported that Hamza bin Laden has been killed. Although the date, location, and other circumstances surrounding his death are not yet available, communication among militants suggests that he is dead.Warren P Strobel, “Son of Osama Bin Laden Believed Dead,” Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/son-of-osama-bin-laden-believed-dead-11564612151. On September 14, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed that Hamza bin Laden was killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region but did not further elaborate on the circumstances leading to bin Laden’s death.Alex Horton, “Osama bin Laden’s son, once the probable heir to al-Qaeda leadership, killed in U.S. operation, Trump confirms,” Washington Post, September 14, 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/09/14/hamza-bin-laden-once-possible-heir-al-qaeda-was-killed-us-operation-trump-says/.

In an audio recording released by al-Qaeda on August 14, 2015, the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced Hamza’s official membership in the group, calling him the son of the “lion” of jihad.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Hamza bin Laden,” U.S. Department of State, January 5, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/01/266522.htm;
Bruce Riedel, “The son speaks: Al-Qaida’s new face,” Brookings Institution, August 19, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/08/19/the-son-speaks-al-qaidas-new-face/.
In the same recording, Hamza pledged allegiance to Zawahiri and deceased Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, and urged lone wolf terrorists to carry out attacks against American and Jewish targets in Washington D.C., London, Paris, and Tel Aviv.Bruce Riedel, “The son speaks: Al-Qaida’s new face,” Brookings Institution, August 19, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/08/19/the-son-speaks-al-qaidas-new-face/. He also praised the 2009 Fort Hood shooting carried out by Nidal Hassan, as well as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings perpetrated by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.Rohan Smith, “Hamza bin Laden’s rise through the ranks of the world’s most infamous terror family,” news.au, July 12, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/hamza-bin-ladens-rise-through-the-ranks-of-the-worlds-most-infamous-terror-family/news-story/5d0487c485617a9b4d07cae9bb1a1691.

Hamza had been featured in jihadist propaganda since at least November 2001, when he appeared in a video uploaded to an al-Qaeda-affiliated website.“Bin Laden sons ‘fighting with Taleban’,” BBC News, November 8, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1644044.stm. In the video, Hamza read a poem praising then-Taliban Emir Mullah Omar, and explored airplane wreckage alongside Taliban militants and his three older brothers.“Bin Laden sons ‘fighting with Taleban’,” BBC News, November 8, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1644044.stm. Hamza was also featured in an al-Qaeda video in 2005 in which he spoke Pashto and fought against Pakistani soldiers.“The Hunt For Osama’s Son Hamza Bin Laden,” Daily Beast, May 11, 2011, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/11/hamza-bin-laden-the-hunt-for-osamas-son-who-escaped-the-raid.html;
Muna Khan, “The ‘Crown Prince of Terror’ who could be King,” Al-Arabiya, May 26, 2011, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/05/26/150646.html;
Brian Glyn Williams, “Return of the Arabs: Al-Qa’ida’s Current Military Role in the Afghan Insurgency,” Combating Terrorism Center, February 15, 2008, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/return-of-the-arabs-al-qaida%E2%80%99s-current-military-role-in-the-afghan-insurgency.
In 2008, Hamza appeared in an al-Qaeda video with his father, calling on teenagers—particularly those who were mentally disabled or came from troubled families—to form small, localized jihadist cells and “accelerate the destruction” of countries that opposed al-Qaeda.“Al Qaeda: Creative Recruiting for Suicide Bombers,” WikiLeaks, August 21, 2013, https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/91/911072_al-qaeda-creative-recruiting-for-suicide-bombers-.html;
Rohan Smith, “Hamza bin Laden’s rise through the ranks of the world’s most infamous terror family,” news.au, July 12, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/hamza-bin-ladens-rise-through-the-ranks-of-the-worlds-most-infamous-terror-family/news-story/5d0487c485617a9b4d07cae9bb1a1691.

Reports allege that following the September 11, 2001, attacks, Osama bin Laden moved key al-Qaeda members and members of his family—including Hamza and Hamza’s mother—to Iran. There, Taliban operatives were tasked with indoctrinating Hamza with their “ideology, vision, and approach,” according to Saudi-owned news outlet Al-Arabiya. The timeline of Hamza’s alleged years in Iran is unclear, though letters between Osama bin Laden and Hamza place Hamza in Iran during the 2011 Abbottabad raid that resulted in Osama’s death.Huda al-Saleh, “From Iran to al-Qaeda: How Hamza bin Laden’s future was secured,” Al-Arabiya, October 4, 2016, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2016/10/04/From-Iran-to-al-Qaeda-How-Osama-bin-Laden-secured-son-s-future.html. If Hamza indeed moved to Iran following the September 11 attacks, then footage of Hamza featured in al-Qaeda videos between 2001 and 2008 was most likely filmed before the attacks.“Message from Bin Laden’s son exposes ‘Iran’s revival of al-Qaeda,” Al-Arabiya, July 26, 2016, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/2016/07/26/Message-from-Bin-Laden-s-son-exposes-Iran-s-attempt-to-revive-al-Qaeda-.html.

Though Hamza had been well-known within al-Qaeda and the larger jihadist community, he provided a “new face” for the terror group, according to counterterrorism expert Bruce Riedel. According to Riedel, Hamza’s face was “one that directly connects to the group’s founder. He is an articulate and dangerous enemy.”Bruce Riedel, “The son speaks: Al-Qaida’s new face,” Brookings Institution, August 19, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/08/19/the-son-speaks-al-qaidas-new-face/.

Hamza bin Laden occasionally released audio statements though al-Qaeda’s as-Sahab propaganda outlet, in which he called for terrorist attacks around the world and disparaged the United States and Saudi Arabia.Bruce Riedel, “Al-Qaeda Strikes Back,” Al-Monitor, July 27, 2017, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/alqaeda-saudi-arabia-attack-bin-laden-son-royal-family.html. Analysts surmised that Hamza would one day assume his late father’s role in al-Qaeda.Adam Withnall, “Hamza bin Laden: Could Osama’s son be the future leader of al-Qaeda?” Independent (London), May 11, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/hamza-bin-laden-could-osamas-son-be-the-future-leader-of-al-qaeda-a7024951.html;
Ali Soufan, “Hamza Bin Laden, Osama’s Son, Is Helping Al-Qaeda Stage A Deadly Comeback,” Newsweek, June 19, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/2017/06/30/bin-laden-osama-son-helping-al-qaeda-stage-deadly-comeback-627207.html.

United States

The U.S. Department of State designated “Hamza bin Laden” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive order 13224 on January 5, 2017.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Hamza bin Laden,” U.S. Department of State, January 5, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/01/266522.htm.

Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On October 21, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, killing at least 15 military cadets and wounding four others. The Taliban claimed responsibility.   

View Archive

CEP on Twitter