The son of al-Qaida leader has threatened revenge against the United States for assassinating his father, according to an audio message posted online.
Hamza bin Laden’s message is taken as a sign that the ageing leadership of al-Qaida is trying to find a way of reviving its fortunes after years of decline, and the rise of rival organisations such as Islamic State (Isis).
In the 21-minute speech entitled “We Are All Osama,” Hamza bin Laden denies Al Qaida is on the wane, claiming it has tens of thousands of supporters and promising to continue the global militant group’s fight against the United States and its allies.
“We will continue striking you and targeting you in your country and abroad in response to your oppression of the people of Palestine, , Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression,” Hamza said in the audio message according to the SITE Intelligence Group..
“As for the revenge by the Islamic nation for Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him, it is not revenge for Osama the person but it is revenge for those who defended Islam.”
was killed at his Pakistani hideout by US commandos in 2011 in a major blow to the militant group which carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Hamza, now in his mid-20s, was at his father’s side in before the 9/11 attacks and spent time with him in Pakistan after the US-led invasion pushed much of al-Qaida’s senior leadership there, according to the Brookings Institution.
Documents recovered from bin Laden’s compound and published by the United States last year alleged that his aides tried to reunite the militant leader with Hamza, who had reportedly been held under house arrest in Iran.
First introduced by the organisation’s new chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in an audio message last year, Hamza provides a younger voice for the group whose ageing leaders have struggled to inspire militants around the world galvanised by Isis. His current whereabouts are unknown.
“Hamza provides a new face for al-Qaida, one that directly connects to the group’s founder. He is an articulate and dangerous enemy,” according to Bruce Riedel of the Brookings institute.
Al Qaida had been in long term decline since must of the leadership was forced into hiding in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. It enjoyed a revival due to the American invasion of prompting many young fighters to flock to the Al Qaida flag giving its leadership a chance to find new recruits and regain credibility.
Within a few months of the invasion by George Bush, a small band of foreign fighters, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian drop out, set up the al Tawhid was-i-jihad. It was modelled on the lines of al-Qaida.
In October 2004 Zarqawi announced he was changing the name of his organisation to al-Qaida in the land of the two rivers, a reference to the rivers Tigris and Eurphrates.
Bin Laden, himself isolated and in hiding, endorsed Zarqawi, even though he was to prove a vicious leader determined to foment communal strife, through suicide bombings rather than simply attacking the American occupiers. Killed by American bombers in June 2006, by the time of his death Zarqawi’s brutality had alienated Sunni Iraqi public opinion, and prompted a rare apology from Bin Laden.
Fawaz Gerges author of the rise and fall of said: “It lost more than a battle and a country. It lost a historic opportunity to integrate itself with an aggrieved Sunni community that had initially tolerated its presence and it lost the opportunity to make inroads into neighbouring Arab countries.”
The failure underlines the degree to which Al Qaida operated a franchise system, and not a centralised organisation. As a result al Qaida’s new leadership lacked serious recruits in Arab heartlands. The value of opinion polls in some of these war zones are questionable, but the overall research shows the organisation started to rapidly to lose popularity from Indonesia to Algeria.
By the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s second in command and successor, urged Muslims to embrace jihad against America but not mass murder. He said: “We disown any operation with a jihadi group carries which does not show concern for safety of the Muslim.”
By 2009 the CIA adjudged the number of al Qaida fighters in Afghanistan had fallen to between 50 and 100. It was left with a roving set of bands operating in the mountains and valleys of Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghan border, remote areas of Yemen and the western Sahara.
The new call by Hamza bin Laden, and its continued presence in Syria, where its offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra remains one of the more successful rebel groups, may yet give the organisation a chance to revive.