President Donald Trump has declined to comment on an NBC News report that the U.S. had information about Hamza bin Laden’s death.
Hamza bin Laden, the son of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1989.
It’s unclear when and where Hamza bin Laden died, but a U.S. military source told ABC News the U.S. government believes he was killed within the last two years.
U.S. intelligence played a role in the operation that killed the younger bin Laden, the source said, declining to elaborate.
A senior U.S. official confirmed that Hamza bin Laden is thought to be dead.
After the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011, Hamza bin Laden later emerged as a “key leader” in the terrorist organization, according to U.S. officials.
In February the U.S. State Department announced a $1 million reward for information leading to bin Laden’s capture and accused him of “threatening attacks against the United States in revenge for the May 2011 killing of his father by U.S. military forces.”
The U.S. government said that a letter found in the elder bin Laden’s compound during the Navy SEAL raid “indicat[ed] that he was grooming Hamza to replace him as leader” of al-Qaida.
Former CIA analyst Nada Bakos, whose recently wrote the book “The Targeter” about her time hunting al-Qaida for the agency, said she is normally fairly dismissive of the impact of taking out terrorist leaders on the overall organization, but Hamza’s purported death could be different because it would be such a blow to the “brand” of al-Qaida.
“They needed somebody who could sort of gather that brand,” she said, contrasting Hamza with the staid image of current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. “He was kind of the perfect person. This is actually impactful [because] I just don’t know who they have, what their backbench is like.”
Tom Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that while it’s “doubtful” Hamza bin Laden was next in line to take over al-Qaida compared to some older fighters, there’s “no question that he was being groomed to be a leader.”
“Hamza was both the biological and ideological heir to his father, and al-Qaida counted on him to speak to a new generation of jihadists,” he said.