On September 14, the U.S. confirmed the death of Hamza bin Laden, 18 years after his father planned the fall of the Twin Towers in New York.
Osama bin Laden, former leader of Al-Qaeda, was killed by an American operative group in May 2011. In the months leading up to his death, Osama took full responsibility for the attacks on the World Trade Center 10 years prior. The United States went on a manhunt for the Al-Qaeda leader in the years to come and offered a $25 million reward for his capture, forcing him into hiding.
#OnThisDay 2011: President Obama statement on Death of Osama bin Laden https://t.co/N0knkTHKxB pic.twitter.com/eNG0lSLapH
— Jeremy Art (@cspanJeremy) May 2, 2016
Eight years after Osama’s death, his son, Hamza, took over as the leader of Al-Qaeda. He has made calls for attacks on the U.S. and other countries. The Hill wrote in 2017, “Hamza bin Laden threatened revenge on the U.S. in an audio message last year, calling for terrorist attacks in [the] U.S. and around the world.” That same year, 60 Minutes did a review of Hamza’s influence over the terrorist organization, summarizing, “He’s basically saying, America and American people, we’re coming and you’re gonna feel it. And we’re gonna take revenge for what you did to my father.”
Hamza has made a point to build the next generation of Al-Qaeda members by calling on all Muslims to take action against Navy SEALs. Tapping into growing hate against the U.S., the numbers of members and instances of violence have increased. A 2016 video called for jihads to follow in the footsteps of Hamza’s father, stating, “We Are All Osama.”
How @Ali_H_Soufan interprets: Hamza bin Laden’s message: “American people, we’re coming and you’re gonna feel it.” pic.twitter.com/8rmR4s6R61
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) May 14, 2017
Despite his promises of violence, there have been 18 attacks while Osama was alive but no major attacks reported by Al-Qaeda since his death. The group has largely stayed out of the news, overshadowed by the Taliban and ISIS except when Hamza tied the knot with the daughter of lead hijacker Maryam Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah. In late July, rumors of Hamza’s death spread across the world without confirmation until last week.
There were significant differences in the coverage of each of these terrorists’ deaths. Former President Obama announced Osama’s death hours after the mission was completed. The American people celebrated all over the country and felt a wave of pride. Capturing and killing Osama was considered one of many great achievements accomplished by the president.
Coverage of Hamza’s death, however, was full of confusion and received a more mild reaction from the public.
The New York Times reported, “Hamza bin Laden had been killed in an operation within the last two years,” even though rumors of his death arose in the past months. When CNN originally reported the death of Hamza in July 2019, the news outlet reported, “The U.S. believes late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden is dead, a US official told CNN on Wednesday.”
Pres. Trump confirmed the death of Hamza Bin Laden, son of the 9/11 terrorist mastermind and al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, marking the first time the White House is confirming his death since it was initially reported a few months ago. https://t.co/uWri9yyqEx pic.twitter.com/Q3Ymk9z8VA
— ABC News (@ABC) September 15, 2019
Now, a month and a half after the original headline, the American public received an “official” death confirmation from President Trump.
Unlike with President Obama’s mission to kill Osama, the media didn’t showcase Trump’s mission to kill Al-Qaeda’s heir, Hamza. Part of the reason is that Obama was more transparent and clear about the mission than Trump. This resulted in failed attempts by the media to find the truth in death rumors over the summer, ultimately ending in a massive miscommunication.