U.S. officials have confirmed the death of Al-Qaeda militant Hamza bin Laden, one month after intelligence officials had reported his demise. In a statement released by the White House, President Trump stated that Bin Laden had been killed in a “counter terrorism operation in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region”, although he did not expand on when the killing had taken place, or why the administration had waited so long before confirming the death. The Associated Press, quoting an official, has reported that it took place in the past 18 months. Meanwhile, the Guardian has reported that the CIA may have carried out a targeted air strike, as opposed to the U.S. government.
Bin Laden, who was the youngest son of Osama Bin Laden, and believed to be in his thirties, was seen as a possible future leader for the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, and President Trump emphasized that the death deprived the group of “important leadership skills”, and helped to undermine “important operational activities”. The U.S. had recently put out a $1M reward for Bin Laden’s death, and he had been labelled a global terrorist in 2017, after audio recordings were released in which he advocated for acts of terrorism to take place in the West.
Whilst the White House alluded to Bin Laden as a “high ranking Al-Qaeda member”, Peter Bergen, part of Washington based think-tank International Security at New America, told the Washington Post that Bin Laden’s role in the group may have been overestimated. He stated that although Bin Laden was certainly being groomed for a leadership role in the future, there was no evidence that he had been high up in the group’s hierarchy before his death. Bergen went on to describe the group as being effectively “out of business”, emphasizing that their global jihad philosophy was being undermined by groups such as Islamic State, who were focusing on targeting Shia Muslims as opposed to the West, and that as a result, the group were struggling to gain traction.
Nonetheless, the fact that Bin Laden had been an up and coming figure in the group, as well as having the potential to reinvigorate the global jihad movement, due to his family connections, suggests that his death is a major loss to the organization.
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