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Reports: Osama Bin Laden's Son Killed

10:52 AM, Jul 23, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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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):

Once in Iran, senior al-Qaeda leaders continued to operate their business as usual. In fact, U.S. intelligence officials believe that in April 2002 Saad bin Laden ordered one of al-Qaeda's first post-9/11 attacks from Iranian soil. [Note: The April 2002 attack occurred in Tunisia.] More than a year later, on May 12, 2003, suicide bombers attacked three housing compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia almost simultaneously. Saudi and U.S. authorities quickly determined that the attack was ordered from Iranian soil by Saif al-Adel-one of the al-Qaeda terrorists trained by [Imad] Mugniyah in Lebanon and who is still wanted by the U.S. in connection with the August 1998 Embassy bombings. [Note: Mugniyah was subsequently killed in 2008.] Saad bin Laden had also been in contact with al-Qaeda's cells in Riyadh. In addition, shortly after the bombing, Saudi authorities began searching for an al-Qaeda agent named Turki al-Dandani, who was thought to have played a key role in the plot. But he had already escaped to Iran.

On May 16, 2003, just days after the attack on Riyadh, yet another string of suicide bombings rocked Casablanca, Morocco. In the worst terrorist attack in Moroccan history, one dozen al-Qaeda terrorists attacked two restaurants, a five-star hotel, a Jewish community center, a Jewish cemetery, and other targets. Two more would-be bombers were arrested by Moroccan authorities before they could carry out their attacks. Once again, the trail led back to Iran: intelligence officials linked Saad bin Laden to the Moroccan attackers.

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.