Home inContext Hamza Bin Laden Reported Dead

Hamza Bin Laden Reported Dead

Catherine Goodwin

Multiple media outlets this week reported that Hamza Bin Laden, son of Osama Bin Laden was killed some time within the last two years. At least three U.S. officials acknowledged that the U.S. played a role in his death. 

Hamza spent most of his life in Iran, and had appeared in videos for al-Qaeda since he was a teenager. The terrorist group has released numerous audio messages in which Hamza Bin Laden calls for attacks to avenge his father’s death and advocates violence against the United States. His last known public statement was released in 2018. Hamza Bin Laden is estimated to have been in his early 30s and was married to the daughter of another senior al-Qaeda leader. Two other Bin Laden brothers were killed in 2009 and 2011; Osama Bin Laden is thought to have fathered 20-26 children. 

Osama Bin Laden, founder of terrorist group al-Qaeda and orchestrator of the attacks on 9/11, was killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL Team in 2011. Hamza is believed by many to have been Bin Laden’s favorite son, and it is thought that he had been groomed to take a leadership role in al-Qaeda. 

Former FBI agent, Ali Soufan wrote in 2017 for the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point: “Many factors suggest that Hamza could be a highly effective leader: his family pedigree, his dynastic marriage, his longstanding jihadi fervor and obvious charisma, and his closeness to al-Qaeda‘s most senior operatives… It remains to be seen how, exactly, the organization will make use of him, but it is clear that his star is on the rise. That should worry policymakers in the West as well as in the Muslim world.” 

The U.S. State Department claims that documents seized in a raid reinforced the notion that Hamza was being groomed for leadership. Thus, Hamza’s death would mean that a prominent and emerging leader in al-Qaeda has been eliminated.  

Some, however, including CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, expressed skepticism about how long Bin Laden had been dead. “If Hamza bin Laden has indeed been dead for months, you would expect al-Qaeda to have released some form of eulogy before today,” Cruickshank said. Historically, the group has formally acknowledged the deaths of its senior leaders. 

When directly asked about the reports of Hamza’s death, both President Donald Trump and the Department of Defense declined to respond.