Osama bin Laden’s son is dead, according to multiple U.S. officials. He was believed to be the heir apparent to the militant group al Qaeda.
WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden, a high-ranking leader of the militant al-Qaida terrorist group, was killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation, the White House confirmed on Saturday.
President Donald Trump announced bin Laden’s death, which had been widely reported more than a month ago, in a statement that did not provide details about how or when he was killed.
“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,” Trump said in a statement. “Hamza bin Ladin was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups.”
Trump said he was killed in the “Afghanistan/Pakistan region” but did not offer a precise location.
A top State Department official recently warned that al-Qaida remains a threat to the United States and other Western countries.
“We must not mistake the recent dearth of al-Qaida attacks in the West for a lack of intent to strike us,” Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, said in a speech on Sept. 12. “The group’s senior leadership core has been greatly diminished, but its regional networks are increasingly dangerous.”
In February, the State Department said Hamza bin Laden was emerging as the new leader of al-Qaida, the organization that plotted and executed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., and the agency offered a $1 million reward for information on him. He was thought to be about 30 years old and based somewhere near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
His father was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011. Letters found by the Navy SEALs during the raid on his hideout showed that Hamza had asked his father to train him to follow in his footsteps, and that the elder bin Laden was preparing him for the role.
Osama bin Laden was believed to have fathered at least 20 children with half a dozen wives and was himself the 17th of 52 children. The letters uncovered in the raid after his death suggest that Hamza was one of his favorites.
Trump’s announcement Saturday came one week after he abruptly halted U.S. negotiations with the Taliban, which provided al-Qaida with a safe haven from which to plot the Sept. 11 attacks.
Those negotiations were aimed at paving the way for a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and ending that 18-year war. But Trump says the U.S.-Taliban peace talks are now “dead” after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a Sept. 5 car bomb that killed an American soldier and 11 others.
Contributing: Vandana Ravikumar
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