Saudi Arabia strips Osama bin Laden's son Hamza of citizenship
Saudi Arabia announced yesterday it has revoked the citizenship of Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who has become an increasingly prominent figure in the terror network. The announcement comes after the U.S. government offered a $1 million reward on Thursday for information leading to his capture as part of its "Rewards for Justice" program. Details here.
Saudi's announcement came after US offered reward for Hamza
There was no immediate explanation on why the royal decree stripping Hamza's citizenship, which was signed in November, was only becoming public now. However, the announcement came after the US offered reward for Hamza. The kingdom similarly stripped Osama bin Laden's citizenship in 1994 while he was living in exile in Sudan when Hamza was just a child. Hamza's whereabouts still remains a question.
This is an example of history rhyming, said Thomas Joscelyn
"This is an example of history rhyming," said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who studies al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. "He's basically born right after al-Qaeda is founded, so his life is totally consumed in the establishment, the formation of al-Qaeda and the launching of its war against the West and America," he said.
Saudi had already revoked the citizenship of Hamza last November
Saudi Arabia revoked Hamza bin Laden's citizenship in November, according to a circular by the Interior Ministry which was quietly published on Friday by the country's official gazette. Though, the state-run media in the kingdom did not report on the decision.
Hamza believed to be born when Soviet withdrew from Afghanistan
Hamza bin Laden is believed to have been born in 1989, the year of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where his father became known among the mujahideen fighters. His father returned to Saudi Arabia and later fled to Sudan after criticizing the kingdom for allowing the US troops to deploy in the country during the 1991 Gulf War. He later fled Sudan for Afghanistan.
In 1996, Osama declared war against the US
Osama later fled Sudan in 1996, where he declared war against the US. As the leader of al-Qaeda, he oversaw a series of attacks, including the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen. He and others also plotted and executed the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Pentagon.
US-Navy killed Osama in a raid in 2011 in Pakistan
The attack on New York and the Pentagon led to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The US Navy SEALs ultimately killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. For Hamza, now believed to be around 30, his father initially worried for his safety and thought to send him away for study, said Joscelyn.
Video released by CIA showed Hamza at his wedding
However, Hamza instead "wants to get into the fight," Joscelyn further said. He was then sent away for explosives training in Pakistan. Video released by the CIA in 2017 that was seized during the Abbottabad raid shows Hamza bin Laden with a trimmed mustache but no beard, at his wedding. Previous images have only shown him as a child.
Hamza began appearing in terrorist videos, recordings in 2015
The State Department said in its announcement on Thursday about the $1 million bounty on him, that it believes he married the daughter of Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 11 attacks. Hamza began appearing in terrorist videos and recordings in 2015 as an al-Qaeda spokesman. In his first audio recording, he called the Abbottabad operation a 'sinful crime'.
IS group, after separating from al-Qaeda, gained much international attention
"If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong," Hamza said in his recording. In recent years, the Islamic State group, which began as al-Qaeda in Iraq before breaking away from the terror group, has taken much of the international attention. However, Joscelyn warned that al-Qaeda remains a transnational threat.
Hamza and Ayman reported to be in Afghan-Pak border: UN
Joscelyn calls al-Qaeda a threat, something that authorities may now pay more attention to as the Islamic State group withers away in Syria. A UN report published last year noted that Hamza "continued to emerge as a leadership figure in al-Qaeda". It suggested both he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over al-Qaeda after Osama's death, "are reported to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas."
Al-Qaeda's leadership demonstrates strategic patience: United Nations report
"Al-Qaeda's leadership demonstrates strategic patience and its regional affiliates exercise good tactical judgment, embedding themselves in local issues and becoming players," the United Nations report warned last year. "While there is as yet little evidence of a re-emerging direct global threat from al-Qaeda, improved leadership and enhanced communication will probably increase the threat over time," the report further stated.