Sat, Mar 02, 2019 - Page 7 News List

US offers US$1m reward to find bin Laden’s son

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US on Thursday offered a US$1 million reward for information about a son of late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, seeing him as an emerging face of extremism.

The location of Hamza bin Laden, sometimes dubbed the “crown prince of jihad,” has been the subject of speculation for years, with reports of him living in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria or under house arrest in Iran.

“Hamza bin Laden is the son of deceased former AQ leader Osama bin Laden and is emerging as a leader in the AQ franchise,” a US Department of State statement said, referring to al-Qaeda.

The department said that it would offer US$1 million for information leading to his location in any country.

Hamza bin Laden, who the US says is about 30 years old, has threatened attacks against the US to avenge the 2011 murder of his father, who was killed by US special forces while living in hiding in the garrison town of Abbottabad in Pakistan.

US intelligence agencies increasingly see the younger bin Laden as a successor to his father for the mantle of global jihad, especially as the even more extreme Islamic State group is down to its last sliver of land in Syria.

In 2015, Hamza bin Laden released an audio message urging militants in Syria to unite, claiming that the fight in the war-torn country paves the way to “liberating Palestine.”

In a message a year later, following in the footsteps of his father, he urged the overthrow of the leadership in their native Saudi Arabia.

Osama bin Laden’s three surviving wives and children were quietly allowed to return to Saudi Arabia after his killing.

However, Hamza bin Laden’s whereabouts have been a matter of dispute.

He is believed to have spent years along with his mother in Iran, despite al-Qaeda’s strident denunciations of the Shiite branch of Islam that dominates the country.

Observers say that the clerical regime in Tehran kept him under house arrest as a way to maintain pressure on rival Saudi Arabia as well as on al-Qaeda, dissuading the Sunni militants from attacking Iran.

One of Hamza bin Laden’s half-brothers told the Guardian last year that his whereabouts were unknown, but that he might be in Afghanistan.

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