The two reasons why the organization has not officially declared him “emir”
Iran-based jihadist Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian special forces officer, is the leader of al-Qaeda after the death of Ayman al-Zawahri in the summer of 2022 in a US strike in Afghanistan, the State Department said yesterday.
“Our assessment is in line with that of the UN — that is (we assess) that the new de facto leader of al-Qaeda, Saif al-Adel, is based in Iran,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said when asked about a report of the United Nations which saw the light of day yesterday Tuesday.
This report states (pp. 3, 6) that according to the “dominant” view of the member states, Saif al-Adel is “now the de facto leader of al-Qaeda” and represents “continuity” in the ranks of the terrorist organization.
However, according to the same text, the organization has not officially declared him “emir” for two reasons.
The first is that this is a sensitive issue for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which does not want to acknowledge that Ayman al-Zawahri was killed by the Americans in a house in Kabul in the summer of 2022.
The second is that Saif al-Adel lives in Iran, a country with a majority Shiite population, while al-Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni organization.
“The location of its base raises questions about al-Qaeda’s ambitions to reassert its leadership in the global (i.e. jihadist) movement in the face of the challenges posed by IS,” according to the UN text.
Saif al-Aydel, now 60, was once a lieutenant colonel in the Egyptian special forces. He is considered a form of the old guard of Al Qaeda.
He reportedly enhanced the organization’s operational capabilities and trained some of the hijackers who took part in the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to the Counter Extremism Project.
He has been in Iran since 2002 or 2003, and although he was under strict surveillance at first, he was later able to make trips to Pakistan, according to Ali Soufan, a former FBI investigator.
He is “one of the most professional and experienced soldiers of the global jihadist movement, and his body bears the marks of battles,” Mr. Soufan emphasized in 2021 in an article in the CTC Journal.
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