NBC News cited anonymous sources Wednesday claiming U.S. intelligence officials believe Osama bin Laden’s son and possible successor as leader of al-Qaeda, Hamza bin Laden, is dead.
NBC’s sources did not divulge any details on how or where he might have died. The report has not been confirmed with any statements on the record.
NBC said none of its three U.S. government sources would indicate whether the U.S. played a role in Hamza’s death or not, but the New York Times cited a source who said the U.S. did play a role. According to the Times, he was killed at some point in the last two years, but the Trump administration needed the ensuing time to confirm his demise. His last known public statement was a video issued in January 2018.
“I don’t want to comment on it,” President Donald Trump said when asked on Wednesday afternoon about the report of Hamza bin laden’s death.
Hamza bin Laden, approximately 30 years old, was involved in al-Qaeda at his father’s side from a very young age. A substantial amount of evidence, including documents recovered in the 2011 raid that killed Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, suggested Hamza had been groomed to take over the international terrorist organization.
A good deal of Hamza bin Laden’s work for al-Qaeda was in the propaganda department, featuring such messages as his August 2016 call for young Saudis to join the terrorist group and train for a revolution against the Saudi monarchy. He issued a notable audio-taped speech in July 2016 entitled “We Are All Osama” in which he vowed revenge for his father’s killing, denouncing the Abbottabad raid as a “sinful” crime against Islam.
Five months ago, the U.S. State Department posted a $1 million reward for information leading to Hamza bin Laden’s capture. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia formally renounced his citizenship at around the same time, based on a royal decree issued several months earlier.
The State Department said he was “emerging as a leader in the al-Qaeda franchise” and cited his threats to attack the United States and its allies. Theories as to his location ranged from hideouts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Syria to Iran, where he spent much of his youth under the protection of the Iranian intelligence community and military, occasionally finding himself under house arrest when Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda soured.