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Bin Laden was grooming son as heir to jihadist empire

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This image from video released May 7, 2011 by the US Department of Defense (DoD) shows Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden/AFP

This image from video released May 7, 2011 by the US Department of Defense (DoD) shows Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden/AFP

WASHINGTON, United States, May 20 – The 22-year-old would-be-jihadist wrote to his reclusive father to say he was itching to join the fight. Hamza trained with explosives and embraced the terror network that killed 3,000 Americans in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But young Hamza was no run-of-the-mill jihadist recruit. He was the favourite son of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was grooming him to take over as Al-Qaeda’s leader, according to US intelligence officials.

More than 100 newly declassified documents were provided to AFP by the Central Intelligence Agency, including two letters to Bin Laden from his son and one from Hamza’s mother imploring that he follow in his “father’s footsteps.”

They included Al-Qaeda correspondence noting the eagerness of Hamza, believed to have engaged in terror raids when he was a teen and propaganda videos at a younger age, to return to his father’s inner circle.

The documents are part of a trove of thousands seized during the deadly 2011 US Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s hideout.

They shed light on inner workings of the terror network and the debate over its future in light of the security noose tightening around bin Laden and the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where he met his fate.

Speculation still swirls about where Hamza, dubbed the “crown prince of terror” by a British MP, was on the night his father died, and no proof has emerged that he was at the compound.

He has not appeared publicly or made any public video statements in years, and his whereabouts remain a mystery, senior US intelligence officials said.

But the documents depict a son describing himself as “forged in steel,” ready to join his father on a journey to “victory or martyrdom,” and a concerted effort by Al-Qaeda to smuggle the young man to his father’s hideout.

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“What truly makes me sad is the mujahidin legions have marched and I have not joined them,” Hamza wrote bin Laden in an eloquent letter in July 2009, when the son was under house arrest in Iran, according to an English translation provided by the CIA.

“I dread spending the rest of my young adulthood behind iron bars,” he added.

“My beloved father, I announce to you that I and everyone, God be praised, are following on the same path, the path of jihad.”

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