President Donald Trump in a statement Saturday said late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden‘s son Hamza bin Laden had been “killed in a United States counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.”
He did not give a time period for the operation or the death.
“The loss of Hamza bin Ladin not only deprives al-Qa’ida of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group,” the President said in the statement.
Trump also said “Hamza bin Ladin was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups.”
CNN previously reported on July 31 the US believed Hamza bin Laden was dead. At that time, two defense officials with knowledge of the operation told CNN bin Laden had been killed at least several months prior.
CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank told CNN at the time that one thing puzzled researchers who are closely tracking al Qaeda: “If Hamza bin Laden has indeed been dead for months, you would expect al Qaeda to have released some form of eulogy before today. The fact they haven’t is highly unusual, given his status in the group.”
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also appeared to confirm in a Fox News interview in August that Hamza bin Laden was dead.
US officials told CNN Saturday the administration wanted to make sure it explored all angles and gathered all of the intelligence it could before making the announcement.
Earlier this year the US State Department called bin Laden, who was believed to be in his early 30s, an “emerging” leader in the terror group, offering a million-dollar reward for information leading to his capture. As far as rewards go, however, it was a distinctly modest one. The price on the head of Ayman Az-Zawahiri, the actual leader of al Qaeda, is $25 million.
The State Department said items seized from the elder bin Laden’s hiding place in Pakistan during the US Navy SEAL raid in 2011 that resulted in his death indicated he was grooming Hamza bin Laden to replace him as al Qaeda’s leader.
Saudi Arabia revoked Hamza bin Laden’s citizenship, official newspaper Um al-Qura reported earlier this year, citing a royal order issued to the Interior Ministry.
Al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self, a ragged collection of dispersed groups with little in the way of coordination. It was long ago eclipsed by ISIS, which at its height controlled an area the size of Britain, ruling over nearly 10 million people.