One of Osama bin Laden’s sons could be expanding his role as a terrorist spokesman, with al Qaeda this week releasing another video that features his voice.
On Monday, an audio recording surfaced in which Hamza bin Laden calls for unity among jihadi militants in Syria, who currently fight under competing banners ranging from ISIS to al Qaeda. He also calls for jihad against Israel and its American backers to “liberate” Palestine, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
It is his second such recording in less than a year, and could represent an effort by al Qaeda to capitalize on the impact of the bin Laden name.
“Obviously, he has the family name,” said CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. “He’s now playing a propaganda role, and he’s a lot younger than some of the other leaders of al Qaeda, in their 50s or their 60s.”
Hamza bin Laden is believed to be in his early or mid-20s, and could represent al Qaeda’s next generation.
“From a very early age, his father was kind of grooming him,” said Bergen, who just published the book “United States of Jihad.” “Hamza has been very much indoctrinated with the whole jihadi kind of message. He’s a true believer. I think that makes him a concern.”
Hamza bin Laden was not at his father’s compound at the time of the raid by American special forces in 2011 — unlike one of his brothers, who was killed there. Papers found at the compound indicate that Hamza had been sent off for terrorist training.
“Just a month before the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, we know Hamza was somewhere else in Pakistan being trained by al Qaeda leadership,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a terrorism researcher with The Long War Journal. “He was receiving high-end explosives training.”
But it is not clear whether Hamza bin Laden now has an operational role in planning terrorist attacks, or whether his role is primarily focused on Qaeda’s propaganda operation.
According to Joscelyn, “al Qaeda is saying, ‘This is the new generation of jihadi leadership. This is the new bin Laden, who is going to ultimately lead us into the future.”
One U.S. intelligence official tells CNN that Hamza bin Laden currently has a relatively small role in the organization, but that al Qaeda could be grooming him for possible future leadership positions.
“I don’t think he’s necessarily going to run al Qaeda tomorrow,” said Bergen, “but the family name, the fact that he’s a younger guy, the fact that he’s a true believer — all that suggests that he likely will play an important role in al Qaeda going forward.”
While al Qaeda’s subsidiary franchises have been thriving in Yemen, Syria, and North Africa, al Qaeda’s parent organization in Pakistan has lost a number of top leaders, many of them to American strikes.
Showcasing Hamza bin Laden, according to another U.S. intelligence official, “appears to be an attempt by al Qaeda to fill gaps in its ever-dwindling bench.”