Saudi Arabia revokes citizenship of Laden’s son
Published: 10:45 AM, 2 March 2019
Saudi Arabia had revoked the citizenship of Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader who has become an increasingly prominent figure in the terror network.
Saudi's Interior Ministry published a decree on Friday in this regard by the country's official gazette. However, there was no immediate explanation why the royal decree stripping his citizenship, signed in November, was only becoming public now.
The announcement comes a day after the US government offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture as part of its "Rewards for Justice" program. He also was added Thursday to a United Nations Security Council terrorism sanctions list.
Earlier in 1994, the kingdom similarly stripped Osama bin Laden's citizenship while he was living in exile in Sudan when Hamza bin Laden was just a child. Where he now remains in question.
Bin Laden is believed to have been born in 1989, the year of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where his father became known among the mujahedeen fighters. His father returned to Saudi Arabia and later fled to Sudan after criticizing the kingdom for allowing US troops to deploy in the country during the 1991 Gulf War. He later fled Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996, where he declared war against the US.
As leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden oversaw a series of attacks, including the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen. He and others plotted and executed the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, which led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. US Navy SEALs ultimately killed bin Laden in a raid on a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
Video released by the CIA in 2017 that was seized during the Abbottabad raid shows Hamza bin Laden with a trimmed mustache but no beard, at his wedding. Previous images have only shown him as a child. The State Department said in its announcement on Thursday about the $1 million bounty on him that it believes he married the daughter of Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 11 attacks.
Hamza bin Laden began appearing in militant videos and recordings in 2015 as an al-Qaida spokesman.
"If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong," he said in his first audio recording.
In recent years, the Islamic State group, which began as al-Qaida in Iraq before breaking away from the terror group, has taken much of the international attention. However, Joscelyn warned al-Qaida remains a transnational threat, something that authorities may now pay more attention to as the Islamic State group withers away in Syria.
The UN Security Council committee in charge of al-Qaida-related sanctions said Thursday that Hamza bin Laden's prominence has grown in recent years, calling him "the most probable successor" to lead a potential new version of the terror group.
His addition to the sanctions list subjects him to a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo that all UN member states are obligated to enforce.
A UN report published last year suggested both he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden's death, "are reported to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas."
"Al-Qaida's leadership demonstrates strategic patience and its regional affiliates exercise good tactical judgment, embedding themselves in local issues and becoming players," the UN report warned. "While there is as yet little evidence of a re-emerging direct global threat from al-Qaida, improved leadership and enhanced communication will probably increase the threat over time."
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