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Hamza bin Laden calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia

Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s heir, calls on Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy in a newly released audio message. The junior bin Laden’s speech was disseminated by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, via social media websites on Aug. 17.

The SITE Intelligence Group translated the audio, which is accompanied by various images. It is the first episode in a series titled, “Dominion of the Best of the Ummah in the Uprising of the People of the Sacred House.”

Much of Hamza’s discussion focuses on the war in Yemen. He blasts the peace talks hosted by Kuwait, saying that after the “Saudi warlords proved their miserable failure on the battlefield, the politicians tried with American pressure to accomplish a victory in the political hallways and corridors in Kuwait.” The parties involved in Yemen’s multi-sided conflict have taken part in the negotiations this year.

Hamza alleges that Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen have helped the Shiite Houthi rebels who threaten the Saudi kingdom’s own stability. He accuses the Saudis of attacking the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) front group, Ansar al Sharia, at a time when the Saudi jihadists were fighting their Houthi enemies.

In “the run-up to the Kuwait negotiations and the ceasefire, [the House of Saud] and its Gulf allies, with direct American participation, attacked our brothers the mujahideen of Ansar al Sharia in the city of Mukalla, at a time when Ansar al Sharia was preoccupied in combatting the Houthis and deterring their cunning and aggression,” Hamza says, according to SITE’s translation.

Mukalla fell to AQAP in early April 2015 and was one of the group’s main strongholds in Yemen for over a year. AQAP hosted major rallies in the port city, tried to win the loyalty of the local population and began to implement rudimentary governance. But an Arab-led coalition entered the city in late April 2016. AQAP’s fighters withdrew from Mukalla, suffering only minimal losses.

AQAP then issued a statement saying its fighters retreated from the city in order to protect the civilian population. This message demonstrated how AQAP, and al Qaeda in general, wants to increase its popular appeal in Yemen and elsewhere.

Hamza picks up this theme in his new message. “Our brothers there presented great sacrifices and gave enormous efforts in serving the Muslim public in Mukalla, as witnessed by the near and far,” Hamza says, according to SITE. “But [the House of Saud] did not leave them alone, neither in fighting the Houthis, nor in establishing the sharia of Allah among the Muslims and serving their needs,” Hamza continues. The Saudis “attacked them [AQAP], thus protecting the transgressing Houthis from the strikes of the mujahideen.”

Hamza claims that the Saudis have therefore “betrayed the Muslims of Yemen twice,” by both failing to “deter the Houthis” and then refusing to “leave alone those who deter them and fight them.”

For a variety of reasons, Hamza says, Saudi Arabia is a country “in dire need of change.” He describes Saudi royals and officials as “great criminal thieves” and “agents of the Americans.” According to SITE’s translation, Hamza argues a new government is needed “to free from the Crusaders the place where the Qur’an descended, to protect the Two Holy Mosques from the Safavids [Iranians], and to establish a new regime that governs with the sharia of Allah the Great and Almighty in full.” He also calls for a more equitable distribution of Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues (“vast riches”) and a government that “revives jihad” among the population.

Such changes are not just the work of the jihadists, Hamza says, but also the duty of the “elite,” including the “honest, glorious scholars” and “preachers.” They and others should “participate in the change with their tongues, their pens, their media, and their tweets.”

In addition, Hamza issues a call to arms, saying the “youth and those capable of fighting” should join the “mujahideen in Yemen,” meaning AQAP.

Osama bin Laden famously turned against the Saudi government in the early 1990s, leading to the revocation of his citizenship. Al Qaeda laid the groundwork for an insurgency in Saudi Arabia in the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But the Saudi government ruthlessly crushed the rebellion. Al Qaeda formally relaunched its presence in the Arabian Peninsula in early 2009, focusing most of its resources inside Yemen, but also orchestrating plots against the West.

Hamza is continuing with the work of his father by inciting Muslims against the Saudi government. As his father did before him, Hamza criticizes Saudi Arabia’s close relationship with the US. As Sahab’s video includes several scenes of American presidents meeting with the Saudi royals. Screen shots from these scenes are included below.

Hamza bin Laden was first featured in al Qaeda propaganda last summer. As Sahab has released audios from him since then, but never shows his face. Hamza’s statements are typically paired with productions starring his father’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri. Indeed, just days before Hamza’s latest message, Zawahiri blasted the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. [For summaries of Hamza bin Laden’s previous messages, see LWJ reports: Analysis: Osama bin Laden’s son praises al Qaeda’s branches in new message, Osama bin Laden’s son says jihad in Syria key to ‘liberate Palestine’, and Osama bin Laden’s son says al Qaeda has grown despite 15 years of war.]

Screenshots from As Sahab’s video accompanying Hamza bin Laden’s latest message:

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