WASHINGTON — The United States has obtained intelligence that the son and potential successor of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden, is dead, according to three U.S. officials.
The officials would not provide details of how Hamza bin Laden died or if the U.S. played a role in his death. The death occurred some time in the past two years, said the officials, but confirmation came only recently.
Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether the U.S. had intelligence that Hamza is dead, President Donald Trump said, "I don't want to comment on that."
Hamza bin Laden's last known public statement was released by al Qaeda's media arm in 2018. In that message, he threatened Saudi Arabia and called on the people of the Arabian peninsula to revolt.
Hamza bin Laden is believed to have been born around 1989. His father moved to Afghanistan in 1996 and declared war against the U.S. Hamza went with him and appeared in al Qaeda propaganda videos. As leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden oversaw operations against Western targets that culminated in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York's World Trade Center and on the Pentagon.
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Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 during a raid on his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound. Hamza was not found at the compound. Letters seized from the compound suggested the elder bin Laden wanted his son to join him in Abbottabad and was grooming him as a leader.
In a September 2017 article, counterterror expert and former FBI agent Ali Soufan said, "Hamza is being prepared for a leadership role in the organization his father founded" and is "likely to be perceived favorably by the jihadi rank-and-file. With the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ apparently on the verge of collapse, Hamza is now the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement."
The department's Rewards for Justice Program described the younger bin Laden on Twitter as "an emerging al Qaeda leader" who "has threatened attacks against the United States and allies."