Osama bin Laden’s son thought killed in Predator strike


Sa’ad bin Laden.

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • bruce says:

    May he rest in pieces. (many)

  • JT says:

    The graphs presenting statistics of drone strikes in the earlier post were very informative. These, along with the Pakistan military strikes, appear to be taking a toll on the training camps. A while back, it was reported that a several hundred training camps existed in Pakistan.
    Do you have any info regarding how many are left after the past year of strikes?

  • Kevin Purcell says:

    I never though about this before but I presume CIA has a covert “CSI/SOCO” group that can get to attack sites post-attack and pick up forensic evidence (easy to conceal too … smear it on clothing). Plus it would take time to get it out and analyzed.
    You don’t need a body to do DNA work: blood, small amounts of flesh or rather more bone will give you the ID. And from a very close hit that will be widespread.
    I can imagine doing the verification work on how much “red mist” you generate. Perhaps somewhere in Nevada or New Mexico. Blowing up pigs (as human analogues) and seeing how you can go about identifying them say 10m or 20m or 50m or perhaps more from the blast site.
    And you know how difficult it is to clean a site that large of forensic evidence.
    Hmmm, there is a TV show in this …
    PS My bet on which strike … the one in the market place where they hit a vehicle carrying AAA. I pointed out at the time that a vehicle with AAA would most likely have an HVT if they want to try to defend against drone recce or attack. And not much was said about who or what the target was but it seemed like a risky attack (in a village/town market) for just killing a few Taliban.

  • KnightHawk says:

    Hopefully this turns out to be confirmed… piece by piece

  • Ryan Jones says:

    Congrats to the forces for getting Sa’ad, never hurts to knock out one of their senior leaders. Sure hope Osama is getting his next.

  • J House says:

    The increase in drone attacks is directly related to the increasing number of sorties flown in the battlespace.
    Dozens of Predators and Reapers have become operational in the past 12 months.
    This likely gives CIA more operational flexibility to decrease time-to-target requirements in cases where the intel is recent and coming from sources other than the drone platform itself (SIGINT or HUMINT).
    It is likely CIA was able to successfully attack a target last month that they may have been unable to attack the previous years.
    It will be interesting to see if attacks increase at the present rate or level off.

  • PoliNewsInt says:

    Thank you for the informative article!
    One Question: How do you know the person in the shown picture is actually Sa´ad? This still image is taken from a Al Jazeera tape showing Mohammed and Hamza Bin Laden playing in an Afghan training camp prior to 9/11. There is – at least to my knowledge – no credible picture source for Sa´ad Bin laden.
    All the best to you and your great website!

  • Steevo says:

    How easy it is… Follow in dad’s footsteps and become an evil, mass murderer of humanity? Why not.
    Its times like this the thought of hell seems so right.

  • Render says:

    The increase in drone attacks can also be directly related to the increased tempo of Coalition operations.
    The CIA is not the only group operating armed UAV’s in the region.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    They may not be saying he’s dead to keep the “legend” alive. Maybe OBL is dead too, but they won’t say it. I always believed the US should have gone full tilt on airstrikes in the tribal areas. Looks like it may be paying off. Why do we let AQ operate in Quetta with impunity? This bothers me most, knowing the P-stani’s will do NOTHING. Hope he’s gone. We will know eventually.

  • Tyler says:

    If I had to guess, the intel community is now putting this out there hoping for Al Qaeda to fill in the blanks. To knock loose some propaganda or chatter on Saad’s proximity to the mortal coil.
    One thing you have to hand to our enemy in Pakistan, they’re pretty trustworthy when it comes to confirming or disconfirming who amongst their ranks has been splattered by a Hellfire missile. One of the rare benefits of fighting an ideology for whom martyrdom is the point.

  • Tyler says:

    Consider also that this is being put out there deliberately on the heels of yesterday’s revelations re: American Al Qaeda operative Bryant Neal Vinas. If he was captured in November and turned snitch on his ‘brothers’ after that he may well have been a key source for some or even many of the HVT kills we’ve seen since then.
    The two stories, back to back…one operative’s death and another’s betrayal…can really get these guys looking over both shoulders.

  • Tommy says:

    Considering how close knit Middle Eastern families are, It wouldn’t surprise me if Bin Laden himself or at least some of Saad’s other brothers were nearby.

  • Kevin says:

    A report on NPR this morning seemed to indicate that he was not a direct target of the attack but “in the wrong place at the wrong time”
    It might be they have intelligence chatter that says he’s dead but haven’t pinned down the attack.

  • mr. parker says:

    I wish they would wait for confirmation before stating we killed one of the swine leaders.
    If we announce that we killed a commander and he’s still alive, that adds to his prestige and mythology.
    Mullah Omar is an example of this going back to Soviet times.

  • yash says:

    it doesnt matter. Jehadis will normally have 30-40 kids… if one of them is gone it doesnt make any difference


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