Hamza Bin Laden Filling His Father's Shoes?
Hamza bin Laden, the son of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, has released a new message offering “advice” for “martyrdom seekers in the West.” Hamza encourages followers to lash out on their own, but only after carefully preparing their attack so they “may inflict damage far beyond anything the enemy has ever imagined.”
As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the junior bin Laden’s message less one week after a similar appeal was issued by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Qasim al Raymi. The “lone mujahid” effort was first launched by AQAP, but the group’s rivals in the Islamic State have had far more success in inspiring and guiding individual attacks since 2014. The messages from Raymi and now Hamza bin Laden are likely part of al Qaeda’s effort to regain the initiative with respect to this tactic.
Hamza calls on individual jihadists to “avenge” the “children of Syria,” the “widows of Palestine,” the “free honorable women of Iraq,” and “the orphans of Afghanistan.”
“Exercise patience and deliberation, for it is among the qualities loved by Allah and His Messenger, peace be upon him,” Hamza says. “Accomplish your goals with secrecy. Attain the highest level of perfection in your actions, exercise utmost care and caution, and prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved.”
Hamza specifically references AQAP’s Inspire Magazine, saying followers can “benefit” from it. (Interestingly, his father was reportedly less impressed by Inspire and even complained about some of the tactics advocated therein.)
“Be perfect in your choice of targets, so that you may damage your enemies more,” Hamza advises. “Be professional in your choice of weapons. It is not necessary that it should be a military tool. If you are able to pick a firearm, well and good; if not, the options are many.”
Osama’s heir encourages individual jihadists to “follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before” them, arguing they shouldn’t “underestimate” themselves. There is no reason to emigrate to the jihadists battlefields abroad, according to Hamza, because “professionally executed individual operations in the West” have “outweighed numerous operations in the East.” (Al Qaeda’s rivals in the Islamic State have made the same argument.)
“Know that inflicting punishment on Jews and Crusaders where you are present is more vexing and severe for the enemy,” Hamza continues. “It is sharper than a hundred warheads directed against their agents.”
Hamza wants followers to “prioritize” their “targets.”
First, “everyone who transgresses against our pure Religion, or against our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him)” should be struck. Hamza specifically mentions the Jan. 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, which was claimed by AQAP and carried out according to Ayman al Zawahiri’s general orders.
“Next, look out for Jewish interests everywhere.” But if the jihadist is not able to locate these, then “target American Crusaders.”
“If you are unable to go for American Crusaders, target the interests of the Crusader member states of NATO,” Hamza continues. “And since Russia has forgotten what it tasted in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and has returned once again to interfere in matters concerning Islam, do not exclude it from your targets of priority. Give Russia a pertinent reminder of the days of your predecessors.”
Hamza and other al Qaeda leaders want jihadist attacks to send a clear message to their enemies. “I strongly advise that the message you intend to convey through your blessed operation must be explained unequivocally in the media,” he advises. “It is absolutely imperative that people should know the objective of your operation.”
“We in al Qaeda emphasize the importance of conveying the following messages to Western states, and we advise you to do the same,” Hamza says. He provides a list of al Qaeda’s priorities for individual jihadists:
1. Our Religion and our Prophet (peace be upon him) are RED LINES. Let those who cross these lines take heed from Charlie Hebdo.
2. Palestine is a cause of our Islamic Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims]. And anyone who supports Jewish occupiers shall never dream of peace, with the permission of Allah.
3. Sham is a cause of our Islamic Ummah. Our people in Sham are faced with genocide. And everyone who participates in tormenting them with bombings or by aiding Bashar [al Assad] and his allies shall not escape punishment.
4. Our lands are occupied. The Land of the Two Sanctuaries [Saudi Arabia] is occupied. We shall continue to target you until you withdraw your forces from the Arabian Peninsula and from every single land of Islam.
5. Our airspace is violated by your aircrafts which unleash their deadly payload on our children. Our wealth and resources are expropriated every single day.
Hamza’s audio message is embedded in a video that is just over ten minutes long. Various operations, including the Dec. 2016 assassination of a Russian ambassador in Turkey, are lauded throughout the video.
As Hamza’s audio begins to play, an image of the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, is shown on screen. The photo of Hasan is followed by footage from the Nov. 5, 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, video from a service for the victims, and a brief clip of AQAP ideologue Anwar al Awlaki, who inspired Hasan.
An image of Ramzi Yousef, who orchestrated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other plots, is also included at the outset, as is footage from the 1993 bombing in lower Manhattan.
As Sahab released Hamza’s message with Arabic and English-language transcripts. Al Qaeda has been releasing messages with an English translation on an increasingly frequent basis. Recent messages from Ayman al Zawahiri and Raymi were also released with English transcripts.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.