Reports: Osama Bin Laden's Son Killed
10:52 AM, Jul 23, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
As Bill Roggio reports, U.S intelligence officials believe that Saad bin Laden, Osama's son, may have been killed in an American air strike earlier this year. If true, and we still await final confirmation either way, then this is a major kill. And press reports drawing into question Saad's importance, such as this one from Fox News and this one from NPR, are simply wrong.
Saad bin Laden was, almost certainly, Osama's heir apparent. At the very least, he was one of the main competitors for Osama's terrorist throne (another of Osama's younger sons, Hamza, is also reportedly gaining prominence). Not only was Saad involved in terrorism, he played a leading role in some of al Qaeda's international terrorist operations.
For years, Saad helped run al Qaeda's terrorist plotting from Iran. In my short book, Iran's Proxy War Against America (2007), here is how I explained Saad's and al Qaeda's plotting from Iranian soil (footnotes omitted):
Saad was protected by the Iranians for years. It was part of a safe haven pact the IRGC and al Qaeda negotiated. The U.S. Treasury Department explained this in a designation earlier this year. Members of Osama bin Laden's family (including Saad), Ayman Zawahiri's family, Saif al Adel (AQ military chieftain) and al Adel's family, received shelter from the Iranians post-9/11.
The reason for the physical divide in al Qaeda's ranks was most likely to protect al Qaeda's next generation of leaders. One half of the central military leadership (responsible for international attacks) went to northern Pakistan, the other half lived north of Tehran. If one half got killed or captured, then the other half lived on.
Saad was part of the Tehran contingent. It was after the May 2003 bombings that Iran supposedly put Saad et al. under "house arrest," which was and is almost entirely meaningless.
For example, the "house arrest" did not stop Saad from relocating to northern Pakistan to be with his father last year. He moved there to rejoin his father because they evidently believed they were safely entrenched. If this latest report is true, then they were wrong. Saad should have stayed in Iran. There is no fear of American strikes against al Qaeda targets operating north of Tehran.