Osama bin Laden’s favourite son "Crown Prince of Terror" ready to take reins of Al Qaeda

Osama bin Laden’s favourite son

Because Hamza bin Laden, favourite son of Osama, recognized from an early age as a gifted orator and apparently as charismatic as the father, is clearly being pushed forward as dynastic heir to his father’s terrorist organization. Analysts say Hamza has been groomed to take over from an aging leadership keen to reunify as a global terrorism entity with the stunning collapse of its rival, Daesh (also known as ISIS). Al-Zawahiri has called him the “Crown Prince of Terror” and “the lion from the den.”

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - He is seen first as a child, reciting a poem in his sweet choirboy voice, at the wedding of his 19-year-old brother, Muhammad.

And then he delivers an all-too-familiar rhetorical diatribe.

“I am warning America that its people will face terrible consequences if they chase my father. Fighting Americans is the basis of faith.”

It was early 2001 and the marriage ceremony was documented on video.

The youngster, Hamza bin Laden, was around 10 years old.

He’s spotted again, two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, in the company of two brothers, playing in the wreckage of, allegedly, an American helicopter shot down by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. That propaganda video was released by Al Qaeda.

In 2004, he stars in a video posted to an Arabic website, dressed in combat fatigues, receiving instruction at a desert commando camp. He speaks for three minutes, directing holy war statements to Muslim children.

Within a year, AK-47 slung over his shoulder, he is celebrating, allegedly, an attack against Pakistan soldiers at a hilltop encampment and, in the 19-minute film, denounces the Pakistani government for co-operating in the U.S.-led fight against Al Qaeda.

In 2008, in a posthumously published autobiography by Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistan prime minister names the teenager as part of four groups of “designated assassins” sent to kill her. Bhutto was assassinated as she left a December 2007 rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

There has been additional footage — strictly audio — over the years: Hamza ranting against the West and Israel, applauding the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, urging jihad in Syria.

Just this past November, the CIA released a trove of declassified material recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in which the Al Qaeda founder and Sept. 11 mastermind was killed, along with one of his sons, Khalid. One of the videos provides glimpses of Hamza on what is apparently his wedding day. He’s 17 — the video is believed to have been made in 2005 — and has just been married to the daughter of Al Qaeda’s second-in-command and deputy to current leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

Further details about this clip were disclosed last week by Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned broadcaster. According to Al Arabiya, the wedding party boasted a who’s who list of internationally wanted terrorists, including a brother of the man who assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, several of Hamza’s brothers — among them, Saad bin Laden, later killed by a drone strike in Waziristan — and Abu al-Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and former Al Qaeda spokesperson.

Hamza, who looks unsettlingly like his notorious father, appears shy on camera, with almost an aura of gentleness.

This past Thursday, in a tape released by the SITE Intelligence Group, Hamza orates on the fourth episode in a series disseminated in recent months. In it, he berates the Saudi Arabia monarchy, urging followers to punish the kingdom for forming historical alliances with the West and uniting with the British Empire against the Ottoman Empire, ancient grievances that had driven his father to form Al Qaeda in the first place. The Saudi monarchy must be overthrown, Hamza intones. He also calls, of course, for attacks against the West, Jews and, somewhat surprisingly, Russia.

This apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

Two weeks ago, Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm released a “Letter from Sheikh Mujahid Hamza bin Laden.” In that letter, Hamza mourns the death of his eldest son, Osama — named for his grandfather — and lauds the boy’s “martyrdom.”

“We console ourselves . . . on the martyrdom of the hero cub . . . the grandson of bravery . . . our son Osama, may Allah have mercy on him.’’

The boy is described as being of a “young age” and had enjoyed play-acting scenes of martyrdom. It’s believed the child was about 12 and speculation is he died of an undisclosed illness.

Why does any of this matter now?

Because Hamza bin Laden, favourite son of Osama, recognized from an early age as a gifted orator and apparently as charismatic as the father, is clearly being pushed forward as dynastic heir to his father’s terrorist organization. Analysts say Hamza has been groomed to take over from an aging leadership keen to reunify as a global terrorism entity with the stunning collapse of its rival, Daesh (also known as ISIS). Al-Zawahiri has called him the “Crown Prince of Terror” and “the lion from the den.”

He is beloved. And he’s been waiting a lifetime.

Not yet 30, only child of Osama bin Laden’s third wife, Hamza is said to have always been the most jihadi-fervid among the spawn; perhaps the most intellectually gifted as well. Crucially, he’s said to possess the qualities to inspire fealty in the Al Qaeda diaspora. He’s also been well-educated. His mother, Khairiah Sabar, a child psychologist from a respected Saudi family, had seen to that.

“Hamza . . . has been preparing to follow in the footsteps of his father,” journalist and author Shehab al-Makahleh told the Star by email on Sunday. (Bin Laden is believed to have father 23 children with five wives.) “He was with his father in Afghanistan before the September 11 attacks, where he learned to use weapons and chant slogans against Americans, Jews and Crusaders.”

Hamza is also known as Al Watheq Billah, says al-Makahleh, who is president of the Jordan-based Political Studies of the Middle East Centre.

“Hamza follows his father’s ideological approach as he believes in the use of force as a solution to the conflict, while planning terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies. There is a similarity in the political circumstances in which Hamza began to emerge in the political and jihadist arena, and his father when he emerged after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.”

Just as Osama bin Laden began assembling “the Arab Mujahideen” after banishment from Saudi Arabia and subsequent expulsion from Sudan — which brought him to Afghanistan — the son is now a rallying figure for Al Qaeda 2.0.

“Hamza is doing the same in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says al-Makahleh. “He is accepting all those who returned from Iraq, Syria and Yemen as well as other places where collapsed states suffer from instability.’’

Hamzah, predicts al-Makahleh, will soon be formally announced as leader of Al Qaeda’s military wing.

“The task of the new structure is to reassemble and assimilate all factions and currents that carry the same ideas, ending the infighting and division among themselves, taking advantage of the retreat of Daesh and al-Nusra Front.”

The al-Nusra front is also known as Al Qaeda in Syria or Al Qaeda in the Levant.

Osama and Hamza bin Laden had not set eyes on each other since November 2001, when the father disappeared into the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora. But they communicated regularly over the years, with Osama entrusting the boy’s safety to his most trusted men.

Letters from Hamza were found in bin Laden’s compound after the SEAL raid. Documents retrieved at the time suggest Hamza was actually on his way to join his father in Abbottabad and just avoided getting caught in the mission.

Certainly Hamza longed to join his father.

“How many times, from the depths of my heart, I wished to be beside you,” he wrote in 2009. “I remember every smile that you smiled at me, every word that you spoke to me, every look that you gave me.”

There are no photos of Hamza bin Laden as an adult. His whereabouts are unknown.



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