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- Saturday, May 07, 2011 - From Print Edition


LAHORE: Pakistani authorities have finally concluded that Osama bin Laden’s son, who was killed during the May 2, 2011 surgical strike by the American SEALS at Abbottabad, was Khalid bin Laden and not Hamza bin Laden, described by US intelligence agencies as the crown prince of terror.


The US authorities have made contradictory claims as to which of bin Laden’s sons was inside the compound at the time of the American raid, and who was killed trying to defend his father. Senior American government officials claimed soon after the raid that the son killed in the Abbottabad raid was Hamza bin Laden. John O Brennan, the chief counter terrorism adviser to President Obama, was the first one to speak on the issue at a press conference in the White House on May 2. He said the US special forces had killed Hamza bin Laden, the 22-year-old son of the al-Qaeda leader.


Obama’s adviser was asked by a newsman if there were any civilian casualties during the Abbottabad operation at Osama’s hideout; in response, John O Brennan had stated: “Bin Laden died; the two al-Qaeda facilitators — the brothers — who were the courier and his brother in the compound; bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden and the woman, presumed to be his wife, who was shielding bin Laden.”


However, well-informed sources in the Pakistani security establishment claim that Osama’s dead son was not Hamza bin Laden but Khalid bin Laden. Besides Osama, Hamza bin Laden is also wanted by the United States for his involvement in terrorist activities directed against the US-led Allied Forces in Afghanistan. In a 2005 videotape, titled “The Mujahideen of Waziristan”, Hamza was shown participating in an al-Qaeda assault against the Pakistani security forces in South Waziristan. In September 2007, it was reported that he was again in the tribal belt that encompasses the Pak-Afghan border region, playing a major role with al-Qaeda forces. In July 2008, a video featuring Hamza was posted on an al-Qaeda-linked website to mark the third anniversary of the July 7, 2005, London bombings, calling for the destruction of the United States and United Kingdom. And last but not the least, Benazir Bhutto had named him as the leader of one of a number of gangs plotting to kill her. In a posthumous autobiography, Bhutto had stated that she believed Hamza was plotting her assassination.


To a question, the sources said Khalid bin Laden’s body is understood to have been taken away by the American commandos. According to the information provided by the surviving family members of bin Laden, who are currently in the custody of the Pakistani agencies, when the raiding party moved through their Abbottabad compound, Khalid bin Laden rushed down from the third floor to the second floor to confront them, but was shot dead instantly. Born in 1989 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Khalid bin Laden was two years elder to Hamza bin Laden, who was born in 1991. He stayed out of the limelight, unlike some of his other brothers, who have taken a leadership role in al-Qaeda. But last year, Khalid wrote a letter to the Iranian government, urging it to lift the house arrest and travel ban for some members of the bin Laden family who at that time were being held in a compound near Tehran.


It is now believed that Khalid bin Laden was with his father in Abbottabad when the letter was written and posted on March 15, 2010, on the Internet by the Global Islamic Media Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda. The sources say having killed bin Laden, the Americans would accelerate their hunt for his two sons — Hamza bin Laden and Saad bin Laden — who actively take part in the anti-US activities of al-Qaeda. Born in 1979, Saad bin Laden is the eldest son of Osama, who had accompanied his father on his exile to Sudan from 1991-1996, and then to Afghanistan afterward.


Saad bin Laden has already been accused by the US of involvement in the bombing of a Tunisian synagogue on April 11, 2002, which killed 19 people. The following year, there were reports of his capture by Pakistan, though these proved false, and he was implicated in the May 12, 2003, suicide bombing in Riyadh and the Morocco bombing four days later on May 17, 2003. He was released from Iranian house arrest and believed to have travelled to Pakistan in December 2008. On July 22, 2009, Saad was reported to have been killed by an American drone attack in the tribal belt of Pakistan. However, the reports of his death were instantly refuted by a Taliban spokesman who claimed that Saad bin Laden was not killed or even hurt during the missile attack.