In a first, exclusive images provided to Al Arabiya have shown Hamza bin Laden, the son of late al-Qaeda leader Osama, with his brothers in Iran.
The images reveal the face of the heir to the al-Qaeda leadership, amid the organization's keenness not to show Hamza’s face, releasing only audio recordings from him in recent years.
The picture shows three of Osama bin Laden’s sons. From the right, they are: Mohammad, Laden and Hamza.
The three brothers were separated after leaving Iran and this picture is believed to show the moment before they departed Iran in 2009. Laden joined his sister Eman in Syria alongside their mother. As for Mohammad, Bin Laden planned for him to exit Waziristan after US airstrikes worsened and go to any other city in Pakistan until arrangements are made to reach Peshawar.
Bin Laden wanted Hamza and his wife Khairiah Sabar to join him in Abbottabad after they left Iran in Sha’ban 2009. Atiyahallah Al-Libbi was tasked with supervising this plan. After staying for few months in Waziristan, Bin Laden instructed Hamza to go to Balochistan as a passage to reach Sindh until they can secure his arrival to Abbottabad.
Bin Laden asked Hamza, or Ahmad Khan as he asked him to call himself while on the journey, to contact a trustworthy mediator in Peshawar and stay with him until they can find another house that’s closer to his. He also asked him to quickly leave Waziristan and forge any identity card to leave. Hamza thus left it in 2010.
Al-Qaeda’s leader worked on grooming Hamza to inherit the leadership of the organization since he was in Iran. His friends looked after him and groomed him while he was still in Tehran. Hamza’s mentors included Atiyahallah Al-Libbi, Saif al-Adel and Abu Hafs al-Mauritani. Abu Ghaith, al-Qaeda’s spokesperson and Bin Laden’s son-in-law, taught him public speaking while Abu Mohammed al-Masri taught him history. His mother also played a role as she directed him and helped explain what he learnt.
Hamza was selected as an heir to his father’s legacy because of his meek character and obedience, as Atiyahallah wrote in a letter noting that he was not like Saad who was killed by a drone strike in Waziristan after escaping from Iran. Saad died because of his impulsive behavior and because he did not follow instructions.
Bin Laden’s intentions for Hamza to inherit his legacy were clear in one of his letters.
“After you arrive, you will further prepare yourself for the jihad of words which is great. There aren’t plenty of jihadists who are capable of this type of jihad. I want you to learn from the experience we acquired while you were away. This will need time. As for weapons, you will learn how to use them during a short period of time. Work hard on getting out as soon as possible and until arrangements are made, do not leave the house unless you really have to and don’t take your son with you,” the letter said.