Ali Soufan Article Featured in West Point’s CTC Sentinal : From Steadfast Son to Al-Qa`ida’s Leader in Waiting
September 7, 2017
Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
By: Ali Soufan
One day in early November 2001, on a hillside south of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Usama bin Ladin bade farewell to three of his young sons. In the shade of an olive tree, he handed each boy a misbaha—a set of prayer beads symbolizing the 99 names of God in classical Arabic—and instructed them to keep the faith. The scene was an emotional one. “It was as if we pulled out our livers and left them there,” one of the boys would later recall in a letter to his father. Having taken his leave, bin Ladin disappeared into the mountains, bound for a familiar redoubt known as the Black Cave, or Tora Bora in the local Pashto dialect.
The three boys who received the prayer beads that day would face three very different destinies. One, Bakr (also known as Ladin), would distance himself from al-Qa`ida, both geographically and ideologically. Another, Khalid, would die protecting his father at their compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. The third, Hamza, would vanish for years before reemerging in 2015 as the most likely candidate to reunite a fractured jihadi movement and lead al-Qa`ida to a future still more violent than its past …
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