WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Just one month before Osama bin Laden was killed at his Pakistani hideout by U.S. commandos in 2011, his aides tried to reunite him with a beloved son, Hamza, who had been held under house arrest in Iran, documents released on Wednesday show.
In a message dated April 2011 an al Qaeda operative named “Mahmud” wrote to bin Laden describing efforts he was making to smuggle his son, one of many children of the al Qaeda leader, to meet with him.
“I have tried to find a way to send him to you on the main road, but I was not able to find one due to the intensified security procedures and searches,” “Mahmud” wrote.
The letter was one of hundreds of documents seized by the commandos when they staged a daring raid on bin Laden’s secret home in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May, 2011. They were released in Washington by U.S. intelligence.
Hamza and other family members, including his mother Khairiyah, bin Laden’s third wife, spent years in Iran, where they fled after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent U.S. military operation against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In a message to his father dated July 2009, Hamza lamented that he “was separated from you when I was a small child, not yet 13. ... You might not recognize me when you meet me, as my features have changed.”
“But what truly makes me sad,” Hamza added, “is the Mujahidin legions have marched and I have not joined them.”
In his November 2010 letter, “Mahmud” described Hamza as “very sweet and good,” but added that he appeared to have become depressed.
“He comes back to me asking me that he should be trained and participated in giving. He does not want to be treated with favoritism because he is the son of ‘someone’... I promised him to plan some safe training for him: firing arms and with various weapons,” “Mahmud” wrote.
U.S. officials said it was unclear if Hamza bin Laden ever got a chance to see his father before the U.S. raid. A U.S. official said he did not know where Hamza is today, or if he even is still alive.
He is not believed to have been at the Abbottabad house when the raid took place, although a number of other relatives were there.
(This version of the story corrects the attribution in paragraph nine to “Mahmud”, not Hamza.)
Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by David Storey and Jonathan Oatis