Hamza bin Laden’s potential as a terrorist leader was recognized when he was still a boy, according the former FBI agent Ali Soufan, the bureau’s lead investigator of al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks. The boy was used in propaganda videos, holding a gun and looking dangerous. “He was a poster kid for the al Qaeda,” Soufan told CBS 60 Minutes on Sunday, adding that al Qaeda recruits were indoctrinated with Hamza propaganda videos, and so “he means a lot to them.”
But is Hamza still alive?
Interrogation of Osama Bin Laden’s surviving wives after the May 2, 2011 raid on the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan revealed that Hamza, who was 22, was the only person missing, and his body was not among those killed. According to the SEAL team, they had been very thorough, and were confident nobody inside the compound had escaped. There were no hidden exit tunnels from the compound.
In a letter confiscated in the raid, written by bin Laden and addressed to his Chief of Staff Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, bin Laden says he wants Hamza to be educated in Qatar as a religious scholar so that he could “refute the wrong and the suspicions raised around Jihad.” The same letter reveals that Hamza was not present in the compound.
This Sunday’s 60 Minutes show reveals additional personal letters that were seized on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, showing Hamza as adoring his famous father and looking forward to carrying his homicidal ideology. And, according to former agent Soufan, Hamza today is preparing to lead a new, stronger al Qaeda in service of his greatest obsession: to avenge his father’s death.
Holly Williams interviews Soufan on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, May 14 at 7 PM ET/PT.
Soufan describes a letter from Hamza that has recently been declassified: “He tells him that…he remembers ‘every look…every smile you gave me, every word you told me.'” Hamza should be 28 today, and he wrote the letter when he was 22 and had been away from his father for a few years. Hamza wrote: “I consider myself to be forged in steel. The path of jihad for the sake of God is what we live.”
Hamza is a “specially designated global terrorist” according to the US government, same classification as his father. He has recorded four audio messages in the last two years, and Soufan believes bin Laden Jr. has what it takes to inspire and unite the jihadi movement. “He’s basically saying, ‘American people, we’re coming and you’re going to feel it. And we’re going to take revenge for what you did to my father…Iraq…Afghanistan’…the whole thing was about vengeance,” Soufan says.
According to Soufan, “Al Qaeda is stronger than ever. I don’t believe even bin Laden in his wildest dreams thought that he will have followers who command armies, troops…lands….”