The death of the youngest son of al-Qaeda’s founder, Hamza bin Laden (30 years old), announced at the end of July and officially confirmed by the Pentagon on August 22, is one of the hardest blows that the mother house of global jihadism has suffered since the death of its founder in May 2011.
Indeed, the death of the “new prince of jihad” brutally ended the dynastic dream through which the new leader of al-Qaeda, Aymen al-Zawahiri, hoped to restore the image of an ageing and declining organisation.
In August 2015, seeing its organization competing and then supplanted by the rise of Daech, al-Zawahiri announced the integration of Hamza bin Laden into al-Qaeda’s “central leadership”. At his instigation, the “new prince of jihad” then issued several audio messages encouraging fighting and calling for the unity of the jihad’s ranks.
In his very first letter, dated May 9, 2016, Hamza bin Laden called for support for the “Knife Intifada” in Palestine and referred to the “liberation of Jerusalem”. A radical discourse that inflamed jihadist social networks. Al-Zawahiri immediately began to dream of inducting a “new bin Laden” at the head of al-Qaeda, with whom he would once again play the faithful No. 2, as he did for a quarter of a century, alongside the founding father, Osama bin Laden.
Weakened by nearly two decades of clandestine life and criticized by his peers for his lack of charisma and authority, al-Zawahiri – known as a fine strategist – saw Hamza bin Laden’s storming entrance into the jihadist media scene as a “providential gift” that would give al-Qaeda the second wind it had been lacking since the loss of its founder.
Because, who else could carry the flag of Osama bin Laden’s legacy better than his favorite son? The very one who appeared alongside him, at the age of 12, in the famous video broadcast by Al Jazeera in November 2001, which was the very first public appearance of the al-Qaeda leader after the attacks of 11 September.
To this aura acquired by Hamza bin Laden, from an early age, due to his proximity to his father, was added another factor of popularity, no less important in the eyes of jihadists: his marriage, in 2007, to the daughter of the Egyptian Mohamed Atta, the leader of the September 11 commandos.
Moreover, this alliance with the family of the most famous kamikaze of world jihadism was an important pledge to reassure the “Egyptian family” within al-Qaeda about its future and its influence within the jihadist movement. As a result, al-Zawahiri could reassure his compatriots that his plan to abdicate in favour of Hamza bin Laden would not weaken the Egyptian clan whose control over the leadership of al-Qaeda is being challenged by Yemeni and Maghrebi jihadists.
This dynastic project envisaged by al-Zawahiri to enthrone a “new bin Laden” at the head of al-Qaeda had a double objective.
First of all, it was a question of exploiting the aura of the name “bin Laden”, to give al-Qaeda back an attractiveness that could make it the ideal alternative for thousands of Daech defectors, disoriented by the collapse of the pseudo Caliphate established by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In addition, Hamza bin Laden’s enthronement could also restore al-Qaeda’s attractiveness to jihadist donors in the Gulf countries, whose flows of donations have declined considerably since Osama bin Laden’s death and the establishment of an Egyptian-dominated Shura.
It was this whole strategy that was shaken by the July 31 raid that targeted and killed Hamza bin Laden.
– 1989: Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
– 2007: Wedding in Iran with the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the leader of the suicide bombers of September 11.
– August 2015: His integration into al-Qaeda’s management is announced by Aymen al-Zawahiri.
– January 5, 2017: His name is on the American black list of most wanted terrorist leaders. And the reward for him is increased to $1 million in February 2019.
– July 31st, 2019: Announcement of his death during an American raid. The information is confirmed by the Pentagon on August 22.