Archive: Osama's Son Also Rises

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SON OF OSAMA? Some suspect Saad bin Laden has taken over Al Qaeda

Is the next generation taking over Dad's family terror business? With Osama bin Laden on the run or dead--depending on which rumor you believe--prominent Arab newspapers like the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat speculated last week that one of his sons, Saad bin Laden, has taken control of the Al Qaeda network. The CIA and other Arab experts don't think so. But with many of bin Laden's top lieutenants captured or killed, there's room now for the young man to move up, the agency believes.

Little is known about Saad. He's believed to be 21 or 22 and the third eldest son of bin Laden's 23 children. He lived with his father when Osama was exiled to the Sudan from 1991-96, then moved with him to Afghanistan after the Sudanese government ejected them. Since then, Saad, who is married to a woman from Yemen, has done chores for his dad, like helping move money around the globe for terror operations and making travel arrangements for al Qaeda guerrillas. Intelligence officials think Saad is now hiding out somewhere along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan at a location different from his father?

Saad's principal value now is the fact that he's a bin Laden and willing to follow his father's footsteps. If Osama dies, Saad is the symbol that the "struggle lives on," says French counter-terror expert Roland Jacquard. "If bin Laden lives, Saad remains symbolic of the generation of young mujehadin ready to step into the battle." The CIA agrees, which is why the agency is eagerly hunting for him. "Just as there's some symbolism to him being there to run the organization," says a senior U.S. intelligence official, "there's also some symbolism in picking him up."