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Al Qaeda's Next Leader Identified!

Interesting Article: "Hamza bin Laden – a potent weapon in the rivalry between al-Qaida and Isis" by Jason Burke, 30 May 2017. Guardian.

An interesting article mentioned that Hamza Bin Laden, has now become the "heir apparent" of Al Qaida, he is the son of Osama Bin Laden and is being groomed to take the reins of authority. Hamza is the son of Khairiah Sabar of Saudi Arabia, one of Bin Laden's three wives who were living in the Abbottabad compound during the May 2011 raid.

Al-Qaida has been overshadowed by Isis in recent years so there are concerns it will use Hamza bin Laden to spearhead a comeback. No formal decision about a successor was taken before Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in the house in the garrison town of Abottabad in Pakistan where he had been living for a decade. One of the al-Qaida leader son’s – Khaled bin Laden – was killed in the raid, while a second – Saad – died by a drone strike in 2009. The formal leader of the group since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 is Ayman al-Zawahiri, a 65-year-old former pediatrician who has little charisma. Hamza, who is thought to be currently based in Pakistan’s restive western borderlands, is married with three children: a son called Osama, a daughter Khairiah and a new baby. All are believed to be in Iran. Hamza’s first public intervention came nearly two years ago, with an audio message calling for attacks. His subsequent messages have followed the evolution of broader thinking among established leaders of al-Qaida, with a stress on unity among extremist groups but an increasing emphasis on individual actions.

Sixteen years after the 9/11 attacks, there is a fair amount of good news about the state of the battle against jihadist terrorists: The United States has not suffered a successful attack by a foreign terrorist organization since al Qaeda's horrific attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Al Qaeda's core group, based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, hasn't launched a successful attack in the West since the suicide bombings on London's transportation system more than a decade ago in 2005, which killed 52 commuters.

While the United States has seen no lethal attacks in which the perpetrators were trained and directed by foreign terrorist organizations since 9/11, there have been five ISIS-directed attacks in Europe since 2014 that killed 188 people, around twice the death toll of all deadly jihadist attacks in the United States since 9/11.

Meanwhile, the Taliban in Afghanistan are at their strongest point since their defeat by US forces shortly after 9/11.

Counter-terrorism officials, speaking about other facets of the war on terrorism, said nations must not get complacent about a possible strengthening of Al Qaeda, the extremist faction that launched the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, eventually retreating from Afghanistan to the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa amid sustained U.S.-led military pressure. The group has been overshadowed by the Islamic State.

In a reversal of Al Qaeda’s earlier tactics, Sheikh Hamza bin Laden, son of the deceased Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, called in May for the group’s followers to embrace the kinds of “lone wolf attacks” used by Islamic State, its bitter rival, in which jihadists execute terror operations acting largely on their own and without direction.

While defeat of Isis dominates global attention, al-Qaeda is slowly growing in Syria, in fact the focus on the fall of so-called Islamic State is playing directly into the hands of Al Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is growing in strength in and around Idlib province just as Isis is suffering defeat after defeat in eastern Syria and Iraq. Al-Qaeda is creating its most powerful stronghold ever in north-west Syria at a time when world attention is almost entirely focused on the impending defeat of Isis in the east of the country. It has established full control of Idlib province and of a vital Syrian-Turkish border crossing since July.

The al-Qaeda-linked movement, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which used to be called Jabhat al-Nusra, has long been the most powerful rebel group in western Syria. After the capture of east Aleppo by the Syrian army last December, it moved to eliminate its rivals in Idlib, including its powerful former Turkish-backed ally Ahrar al-Sham. HTS is estimated to have 30,000 experienced fighters whose numbers will grow as it integrates brigades from other defeated rebel groups and recruit’s young men from the camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in Idlib from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

HTS stands to benefit politically and militarily from the decline of Isis, the original creator and mentor of Jabhat al-Nusra, as the earliest of al-Qaeda’s incarnations in Syria was known. Under the name of al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of the movement split off in 2013 and the two sides fought a bloody inter-jihadi civil war. If Isis is destroyed or rendered a marginal force, Sunni Arab jihadis refusing to surrender to Assad’s army and intelligence service will have no alternative but to join HTS. Moreover, Sunni Arabs in eastern Syria may soon be looking for any effective vehicle for resistance, if Syrian government armed forces behave with their traditional mix of brutality and corruption.

Al Qaeda is also working on ways to grow through outlying regional issues. For example, to bolster its troops and sizes, A senior leader of al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has called for attacks on Myanmar authorities in support of minority Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar's roughly 1.1 million Rohingya pose one of the biggest challenges facing leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by Western critics of failing to support the Muslim minority that has long complained of persecution. In a video message released by al Qaeda's al-Malahem media foundation, Khaled Batarfi called on Muslims in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia to support their Rohingya Muslim brethren against the "enemies of Allah." Batarfi, who was freed from a Yemeni prison in 2015 when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seized the port city of Mukalla, also urged al Qaeda's Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) branch to carry out attacks. About 58,600 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh from Myanmar, according to U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

Al Qaeda was also restarted its magazine. This history is worth remembering, because just this month al-Qaeda came out with a new edition of Inspire, this time with detailed instructions for how to carry out “Train Derail Operations.” The magazine includes an article by Hamza bin Laden — the son of Osama bin Laden and an emerging al-Qaeda leader — who addresses “the valiant heroes of Islam in America” and offers “advice for anyone who intends to carry out a martyrdom operation.”
The continued resilience of Al Qaeda in Syria and the fact that the drivers of global jihadism are not going away anytime soon suggests that the long war that began on 9/11 more than a decade and half ago has many years left before it finally sputters out.



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