Why Hamza bin Laden's jihadist royalty made him nothing more than a propaganda tool for al-Qaeda

Analysts said his reported death made little difference to the fortunes of the terror group – CIA

As the bearer of the world’s most notorious terrorist name, Hamza bin Laden had a pedigree as jihadist royalty and was being groomed as a rising star to revive al Qaeda.

A favourite son of Osama bin Laden, his lineage saw him nicknamed the Crown Prince of Jihad.

His credentials as a jihadist force appeared to be strengthened earlier this year when the US put a $1m reward on his head and Saudi Arabia removed his citizenship.

But there was also scepticism about his leadership potential and whether he held much value to the terrorist network beyond name recognition and propaganda value.

disclosure by American officials that the 30-year-old is believed to have been killed sometime in the first two years of Donald Trump’s administration is likely to be a symbolic rather than practical blow, counter terrorism analysts predicted.” data-reactid=”21″>The disclosure by American officials that the 30-year-old is believed to have been killed sometime in the first two years of Donald Trump’s administration is likely to be a symbolic rather than practical blow, counter terrorism analysts predicted.

John Bolton, the National Security Advisor to Trump, speaks at the White House as sources revealed Hamza had been killed Credit: Tom Brenner/ Bloomberg

“I don’t think it makes a difference in practical terms,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute.

“The removal of a guy who has not particularly done anything is not going to really move the dial.”

Bin Laden’s death would however undermine attempts to update the image of the network, with a new generation of younger leadership. Al Qaeda is still led by an ageing cadre of veteran jihadists around Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The group has been trying to capitalise on the destruction of Islamic State group’s caliphate to again become the world’s pre-eminent jihadist group.

American officials gave no details of where or when he was killed, only saying it had been under Donald Trump’s presidency and before the reward was put on his head in March. At the time the reward was issued, officials had not confirmed his death. Officials had previously said he may be hiding in Afghanistan.

Hamza is believed to be the 15th of bin Laden’s 20-odd children and spent his early childhood with his parents, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Sudan and Afghanistan in the 1990s.

After the 9/11 attacks, when bin Laden became the world’s most wanted man, he sent several wives and children to live in Iran, for safety, including Hamza.

Hamza had previously called for the destruction of the UK

Letters discovered in the Abbottabad compound after the May 2011 raid that killed the older bin Laden show Hamza had a close bond with his father and wanted to follow in his footsteps. His father in turn appeared to be grooming him for a leadership role.

In one long letter, Hamza complained of living “behind iron bars” and wanting to join his father’s holy war against the West.

“What truly makes me sad, is the mujahideen legions have marched and I have not joined them,” he wrote.

By the time of his father’s death, Hamza had left Iran, but was not living in his father’s compound. Instead he was reportedly kept in a separate safe house and was to be sent to Qatar for education.

“Hamza is one of the mujahideen, and he bears their thoughts and worries,” his father wrote in one letter.

He has since gone on to swear revenge for his father’s death. “If you think that the crime you perpetrated in Abbottabad has gone by with no reckoning, you are wrong,” he warned in one recording.

His status in al Qaeda was underlined when he was introduced by the network’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as a “lion”. His jihadist pedigree has been further burnished by reports he married the daughter of 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta.

In one 2015 audio message, he called on jihadists in Syria to unite, claiming that the fight would pave the way to “liberating Palestine.” He has also called for the overthrown of the Saudi royal family.

The younger bin Laden’s death comes as the group is still eclipsed by Islamic State and has not carried out a major attack for years. The network has in recent years switched focus from high profile attacks on the streets of the West, to fighting against regimes in Syria, Yemen and North Africa where it says it is protecting Muslims.

Mr Pantucci said: “They are saying they are really fighting the fight. They are rebranding themselves to really show that they are leading the struggle to defend Muslims from non-believers.”