Osama bin Laden’s son has called for jihadis to avenge his father’s death with terror attacks targeting the US in a new speech.
“I invite Muslims generally to take revenge on the Americans, the murderers of the Sheikh [Bin Laden], specifically from those who participated in this heinous crime,” he said in an audio recording released by al-Qaeda’s propaganda channels.
Hamza’s brother Khalid was killed alongside his father and three others during Sea Team Six’s raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in 2011.
The operation, at the end of a decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader behind the 9/11 terror attacks, was celebrated as a major blow to jihadi terrorism.
But there are fears that extremists could find a new figurehead in Hamza as Isis continues to lose territory and fighters across Syria and Iraq.
In his lengthy speech, the younger Bin Laden hailed his father as a hero of Muslims worldwide, saying he had “revised the spirit of jihad”.
While praising the Afghan Taliban, Hamza made no mention of Isis, which was spawned from al-Qaeda in Iraq but split following a power struggle in 2014.
He called on Muslims to “liberate their lands…from Crusader hegemony” and establish Sharia law – the same conditions Isis claimed to have fulfilled when it declared its supposed caliphate three years ago.
Hamza claimed that the Arab Spring uprisings, which triggered the Syrian and Libyan civil wars as well as government overthrows in Egypt and elsewhere, had been “assailed by enemies and derailed from their path”.
He called on the “oppressed Muslims masses” to “rise in rebellion against oppression and tyranny” and “revolt against the agents of the Americans”, according to a translation by the Long War Journal.
Jean-Marc Rickli, a research fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and King’s College London said the statement was well-timed as al-Qaeda looks to soak up former Isis fighters dispersing from its rival’s former territories.
“Al-Qaeda could use this time of serial defeat for Isis to rise again, attract and co-opt Isis supporters and operative,” he told The Independent.
“Some speculate that Hamza Bin Laden could even have contributed to the emergence of a new group called Ansar al-Furqan, comprising some high level al-Qaeda operatives, in Syria last October.”
Dr Rickli said Hamza’s focus on America for his threats was a “persistent” theme from al-Qaeda, diverging from Isis’ incitement of global attacks even in Muslim-majority countries like Egypt.
Analysts have long warned that al-Qaeda has been amassing strength and local support while international fire has been turned upon Isis, presenting itself as a slightly more moderate Islamist alternative in Syrian territories it controls.
There are concerns that it could profit from resistance to the presence of US-backed Kurdish forces in former Isis strongholds, who have been met with protests and seen clashes between Kurdish and Sunni Arab fighters.
While al-Qaeda recent activity has concentrated dominantly on local insurgencies, such as by al-Shabaab in Somalia and its branch in Yemen, many have warned that the terrorist group has not lost its ambition to attack the West.
“In the future it is possible that we will see attacks in the West by both Isis and al-Qaeda supporters,” Dr Rickli warned.
“We shouldn’t dismiss the rising threat of al-Qaeda that has been rebuilt and will now probably strike again in the West.”
Adam Deen, the executive director of counter-extremism group Quilliam, previously told The Independent the death of Bin Laden led to a “sense of false victory” against Islamist extremism.
“It’s not just about censorship [off terrorist propaganda], it’s about providing a counter-narrative because they’ll go to black social media sites,” he added. “The alternative is where we’re struggling.”
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