In Depth

Who is Hamza bin Laden? Tracing Osama bin Laden's children

Former al-Qaeda leader's son vows to retaliate against US and continue global jihad

Osama bin Laden's son has vowed to take revenge on the US for the killing of his father and pledged to continue al-Qaeda's global jihad.

In a 21-minute video entitled We Are All Osama, Hamza bin Laden says he will "continue striking and targeting" the US both at home and abroad "in response to the oppression of the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression".

The video was released just after the six-year anniversary of the killing of the al-Qaeda leader by American special forces.

According to the US-based Brookings Institution, Hamza, who is now in his mid-20s, was at his father's side in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. He spent time with his father in Pakistan after the US-led invasion.

"Hamza provides a new face for al-Qaeda, one that directly connects to the group's founder. He is an articulate and dangerous enemy," says Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at Brookings Institution.

Having been held under house arrest in Iran until recently, Hamza "provides a younger voice for the group whose ageing leaders have struggled to inspire militants around the world galvanised by Islamic State", says The Guardian.

Ali Soufan, who was the FBI's lead investigator of al-Qaeda after the terror attacks on 11 September 2001, told CBS that documents seized from Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound when he was killed by US Navy Seals in 2011 showed Hamza was looking to follow in his father's footsteps.

"He's basically saying, 'American people, we're coming and you're going to feel it. And we're going to take revenge for what you did to my father…Iraq…Afghanistan'…the whole thing was about vengeance," Soufan says.

How about Osama bin Laden's other children?

Reports suggest Osama bin Laden fathered between 20 and 26 children, but Hamza and his older brother Saad are believed to be the only ones to have taken up formal roles in al-Qaeda.

Saad spent four years under house arrest in Iran and was later killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2009. A US counterterrorism official at that time told NPR: "Saad bin Laden wasn't important enough to target personally – he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Most of what is known about Osama's other children comes from his fourth eldest son Omar bin Laden who rejected his father's beliefs and ended contact with Osama in April 2001, shortly before the terrorist attacks on 11 September.

"People are surprised when they learn that I am the son of Osama bin Laden," he told the New Statesman.

"But once they get their wits in order, they are curious about my life and usually extend a hand of friendship, which leads me to believe that most people have very good hearts."

Omar wrote a book about his experiences, revealing the conflicting emotions he holds for his father.

"Although I cannot simply order my heart to stop loving my father, I do not agree with his behaviour," he wrote. "As the son of Osama bin Laden, I am truly sorry for all the terrible things that have happened, the innocent lives that have been destroyed, the grief that still lingers in many hearts."

Omar and his British wife Zaina said in an interview in 2010 that at least six of Osama bin Laden’s children and one of his wives lived in a comfortable compound in Tehran with other relatives.

Omar told the New York Times that his sister Iman had escaped the security confines of the compound in 2011 with the help of their oldest brother Abdullah bin Laden, a businessman who had also rejected his father’s lifestyle.

According to The Guardian, Iman escaped during a shopping trip and made her way to the Saudi Embassy, to be reunited with her mother, who lived in Syria. The Guardian adds that Iman now lives in the Saudi city of Jeddah with several siblings.  

The fate of Osama's other offspring is less well known. In the book, "The Osama bin Laden I know", author Peter Bergen spoke to Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who met bin Laden soon after the attacks on 11 September.

Mir said bin Laden had told him that he had plans for his youngest daughter, Safiyah.
"I became a father of a girl after 11 September," bin Laden told him.

"I named her after Safiyah who killed a Jewish spy at the time of the Prophet. (My daughter) will kill enemies of Islam like Safiyah."

Safiyah is believed to have been at the compound during the raid that killed her father and was subsequently imprisoned in Pakistan, according to the Daily Mirror.

It is now thought that she lives in Jeddah with her brother.

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