In the same letter Osama bin Laden wrote to his chief of staff, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, advising the relocation of fighters from Waziristan to Afghanistan, bin Laden also asked Atiyah to facilitate the establishment of a safe house in Peshawar for his son, Hamza. The letter is dated Oct. 21, 2010. Peshawar is the capital Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Bin Laden was concerned about security precautions for Hamza, who is a senior al Qaeda leader, as well as for his sons ‘Uthman and Muhammad, and voiced distrust for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. From the letter, emphasis is mine:
In your letter, you talked about your relationship with Abu-Salman al-Baluchi. I know that he is good Mujahid and got detained in the past, but some of the Baluchi people that he knows work for the Pakistani intelligence. Therefore, I advise you to be careful and not talk to him about your news and secrets. Also, for that reason, my son Hamzah should not be at his place or anywhere near him.
Regarding my son Hamzah and his mother, I wish you take all the security precautions that were mentioned before in order to disrupt surveillance on him. He should move only when the clouds are heavy. Then, ‘Um-Hamzah goes to the middle-man on my side. I asked him to make all the remaining arrangements. I also asked him to make sure that they read the letter before they go in order to alert them to some security precautions including not taking with them any of the things that they had in Iran, such as their suitcases. As for Hamzah, if you find my companion that we talked about, please send him to Peshawar and the surrounding area and ask him to arrange a house that can hold two families in addition to his family. He should stay there with Hamzah. If you did not find him yet, then please have a trusted Pakistani brother accompany him. Make sure to tell Hamzah that I am of the opinion that he needs to get out of Wasiristan if he is there, and he should not go there if he is not there. What I said regarding Hamzah applies to ‘Uthman and Muhammad if they come from Iran.
Bin Laden obviously felt Peshawar was safe enough in October 2010 to hide one of his favorite sons there. Hamza has been discussed as being groomed as future emir for al Qaeda.
It is unclear if the safe house was actually established, and if it was, whether Hamza used it. With the release of only 17 documents from the vast cache of documents taken in the Abbottabad raid, it is impossible to know (I am told more than 10,000 document have been translated and that there are many, many more which have yet to be translated). Hamza’s whereabouts are unknown; he is known to move in and out of both Iran and Afghanistan.
But we do know that al Qaeda is not afraid to place its top operatives in Pakistan’s major cites. Many a senior al Qaeda leader has been killed or captured far from North and South Waziristan. Bin Laden himself was killed in Abbottabad; Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was captured in Rawalpindi; Abu Zubaydah was detained in Faisalabad; Khalid bin Attash was arrested in Karachi; Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was busted in Gurjat; Younis al Mauritani and Abu Musab al Suri were arrested in Quetta; Abu Faraj al Libi was captured in Mardan; etc.
Also of note: The operative mentioned by bin Laden in the beginning of the excerpt above – Abu Salman al Baluchi – has not been previously mentioned in any open source material on al Qaeda and the Taliban. He obviously is a Baluch and very likely operates in Baluchistan province, where the Taliban wield a vast amount of influence and al Qaeda is known to operate. While bin Laden is advising Atiyah “to be careful and not talk to [al Baluchi] about your news and secrets” due to some of his associates’ known ties with the ISI, bin Laden does not advise Atiyah to sever ties with him. It seems clear, at least based on this one document, that bin Laden advises Atiyah to continue to work with al Baluchi, who again is linked to the ISI through associates, but just not on issues related to bin Laden’s family.