Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Osama Bin Laden's Son Thought Killed in Predator Strike

Via The Long War Journal -

Sa'ad bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, is thought to have been killed in a US Predator airstrike in Pakistan's tribal areas. The report has not been confirmed.

Sa'ad is thought to have been killed during a strike earlier this year, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal.

"We're pretty sure but we're not certain," one official said. "We are hopeful."

US intelligence officials want to confirm or deny Sa'ad's death by using DNA testing. But it is unclear if they have recovered a body from the attack site.

The officials would not identify the date or the location of the airstrike that is thought to have killed Sa'ad. The covert US air campaign has focused heavily on North and South Waziristan. Fifty percent of the attacks occurred in South Waziristan, and 38 percent took place in North Waziristan, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The US has killed a total of 22 High Value Targets, which include some of the high- and mid-level Taliban and al Qaeda leadership in the tribal agencies since the first strike was reported back in June 2004 [see LWJ report, US Predator strikes in Pakistan: Observations].

Al Qaeda has neither confirmed nor denied Sa'ad's death. Al Qaeda typically issues a martyrdom statement for senior leaders and commanders who have been killed in battle.

Sa'ad is considered a senior leader in al Qaeda. He is an operational commander who was involved in the 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is known to shelter in Iran and move back and forth across the border with Pakistan.

He is reported to have facilitated communications between Ayman al Zawahiri and Qods Force, the notorious special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, in September 2008 after the deadly attack on the US embassy in Yemen.

Sa'ad made "key decisions for al Qaeda and was part of a small group of al Qaeda members that was involved in managing the terrorist organization from Iran," according to the US Treasury report that designated him as a terrorist on Jan. 16, 2009. "As of September 2008, it was possible that Sa'ad bin Laden was no longer in Iranian custody," the Treasury reported.

Sa'ad is believed to have entered Pakistan’s northwest to meet with Zawahiri in Pakistan sometime in early September, according to Mike McConnell, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence.

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