By Louise Boyle
6 March 2019
The U.S. government announced a $1 million reward last week for information to track down Hamza bin Laden, who has taken up the mantle of global jihad since his father's death in 2011
The Navy SEAL who shot dead Osama bin Laden exclusively told DailyMailTV on Wednesday that he believes the terror chief's son Hamza is hiding out in Pakistan protected by drug lords – but should be living in fear that he will meet his father's fate.
The U.S. government announced a $1 million reward last week for information to track down Hamza bin Laden, who has taken up the mantle of global jihad since his father's death in 2011.
Rob O'Neill told DailyMailTV host Jesse Palmer: 'I liked that the State Department put out $1 million reward even though I think he's worth more than that. It's a lot of money for someone that might turn him in - but $5 million is better. The more they offer, the more chances that someone's going to turn him in.
'It will come down to human intelligence - who saw him and where. You have to wade through the lies because a lot of people will say they saw him now, to try and get the money.'
Al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks were the largest terrorist loss of life on U.S. soil, claiming the lives of 2,977 victims and sparked the U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
O'Neill was a member of SEAL Team 6 which stormed Osama bin Laden's compound under cover of darkness in Abbottabad, Pakistan, almost eight years ago after a decade of work by multiple U.S. military intelligence agencies had pinpointed a concrete location.
The story of the CIA agent who doggedly tracked bin Laden down inspired the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
O'Neill, 42, came forward in 2014 and named himself as the man who fired the kill shots which ended bin Laden's reign at the top of Al-Qaeda.
The decorated veteran recalled the detailed planning behind the scenes leading up to the bin Laden raid and believes that there will be a similar frenzy of activity today tracking down Hamza.
'The three-letter agencies will be gathering human intelligence, signal intelligence and even rumors to find out where [Hamza] is,' he said.'[Al-Qaeda] are protecting themselves in places like Quetta, Pakistan. I'm pretty sure that's where they took Bowe Bergdahl.
'It's where the Haqqani network is, a Taliban criminal group, but they are Islamists. We were semi-offered a mission to try to rescue Bowe Bergdahl after the bin Laden raid but there's a big difference going to Quetta than going to Abbottabad.
'It's a hornet's nest and if anything goes wrong, it's going to go very wrong.
'It's going to be neighbourhoods fighting you. So they're protecting themselves and even the Pakistani government don't have much to do with it there.'
Hamza bin Laden, who is believed to be around 30, has threatened attacks against the U.S. to avenge the 2011 killing of his father by SEAL Team 6.
Since at least August 2015, he has released audio and video messages on the Internet calling on his followers to launch attacks against the United States and its Western allies, the US State Department said in a statement last Thursday.
O'Neill, who is married and has children, is very aware of his own security risks.
He said: 'I do have security measures and I'm aware of it. It's not great but also everyone here is a target. It doesn't matter if you're Christian or Muslim if you don't agree exactly with his ideology, you're a target.
'It's the harsh reality of today's world. I wish we could all get along, it's a small world but if we're going to defeat this ideology we need Muslims and there's a lot of them that want to help.'
The 15th of Osama bin Laden's at least 20 children and a son of his third wife, Hamza has been groomed to follow in his father's footsteps since childhood.
At his father's side in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks, Hamza learnt how to handle weapons, and ranted in his thin voice against Americans, Jews and 'Crusaders' in videos uploaded online.
On the eve of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Hamza was separated from his father. O'Neill does not believe that Hamza was at the Abbottabad compound during the 2011 raid.
He said: 'We knew Khaled, [bin Laden's eldest son, also killed in the 2011 raid] was there. We thought there was a chance of them both being there. He wasn't but if he was, we might not have been having this discussion today.'
The former SEAL explained how the raid also gave U.S. intelligence the opportunity to learn about the dynamics of the terrorist family.
He said: 'It was a big house. It was a three stories with a guest house, a big garage and 20 people were living there. They were burning their own trash. They had livestock and were growing a lot of their own foods.
'The top floor was just for Osama bin Laden, his wife Amal and their young son. It was cluttered, not beautiful, but it wasn't the worst house I've ever been in.
'We found letters, disk drives, disks, computers towers. Some [material] was encouraging Hamza not to get into what Osama called the 'family business' because when we got to him, he was just living in a house by himself and he was a hermit.
'Then there were [letters] that said he sent [Hamza] to get training in Pakistan on explosives and they were grooming him to be the head of Al-Qaeda. Possibly because Ayman al-Zawahiri, who now is technically to be head of Al -Qaeda, is not as dynamic or outspoken as Hamza could be.'
The location of Hamza bin Laden, sometimes dubbed the 'crown prince of jihad', has been the subject of speculation for years with reports of him living in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran.
He is believed to have spent years with his mother in Iran, despite Al-Qaeda's strident denunciations of the Shiite branch of Islam that dominates the country.
Observers say that the clerical regime in Tehran kept him under house arrest as a way to maintain pressure on rival Saudi Arabia as well as on Al-Qaeda, dissuading the Sunni militants from attacking Iran.
O'Neill believes that like his father, Hamza will be somewhere in Pakistan.
'I've heard the Iranian thing, I'm not buying a lot of that. I think they did keep some Al-Qaeda guys in there just because the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend,' O'Neill said.
'The Iranians and the Wahhabists, which Al-Qaeda are and ISIS are, they're not really crazy about each other. But if they're fighting with us, I wouldn't put it out the rub. I would say more likely in Pakistan than in Iran.
'Al -Qaeda plays the long game. I always say that ISIS likes to stab us in the front but Al-Qaeda get us in the back. There's still a threat. There are thousands of them spread out now – Syria, Iran, Yemen. There's a lot of places for them to go.
'It's busy right now for SEAL Team 6 and our Army counterparts. There is a lot of stuff in Syria they're doing, we've still got a presence in Iraq.
'They're going to maintain a presence right now in parts of Afghanistan because of the cross -border operations. And everywhere from Egypt to Western Africa, then Somalia, Yemen.'
In 2015, Hamza bin Laden released an audio message urging jihadists in Syria to unite, claiming that the fight in the war-torn country would pave the way to 'liberating Palestine.'
And in a message a year later, repeating one of his father's central messages, he urged the overthrow of Saudi Arabia's leadership.
One of Hamza bin Laden's half-brothers told The Guardian last year that Hamza married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
It was the first time Atta was known to have been married or had children – until last year, he was believed to have been single and childless. The State Department repeated the revelation in its wanted notice.
The decorated veteran believes Hamza bin Laden will meet his father's fate and offered a stark warning. ‘Knock it off. The ideology is not worth it, it's archaic. It's 2019 and people have proven you can get along with each other, he said.
'I don't think that is what's going to happen. He's got a lot of anger pent up and it is what it is.
'I'm not worried about him. I've dealt with these people before.'
He added: 'We have people out there, younger than I am now and better than I probably was. We have men and women out there that can do it and not just SEAL Team 6 but our Army counterparts, British Special Forces, the French.
'There are a lot of people out there fighting who are really good and on our team.'