Saif al-Adil was a former colonel in the Egyptian armed forces and explosives expert. He fled Egypt in 1988 to join with Maktab al-Khidamatm (the forerunner to Al-Qaeda), to fight against the soviets. In 1993 he played a key part as a commander and trainer in the battle for Mogadishu, assisting Al-Shabbab and later heading to Sudan where he linked up with Osama Bin Laden. Since then Adil has been seen as the 3rd in command after Zawahiri.
He has been implicated in numerous criminal activities over the years such as involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings, 2003 Riyadh bombings and the murder of David Pearl. Following 9/11 he fled Afghanistan along with many others of the cowardly criminals of Al-Qaeda. Here he has either been under arrest or simply allowed to live at the behest of the Iranian regime. Many sources have detailed this activity and in later articles Terrorleaks will explore these links in greater depth.
Now we are concerned with Saif becoming the next leader of AQ’s criminal network. For a long time this has been speculated. Since the death of Aymen Zawahiri in Kabul 2022, it has been thought that Saif was the natural successor to the position of leadership. There has however been no official announcement or acknowledgment of this change in command, something that would normally be met with fanfares and speeches. The overall silence of AQ on the matter is likely down to two matters. Firstly the Talibans approach to the killing of Zawahiri, they continue to deny the very fact of the killing and the fact that it happened on Afghan soil. This is due to their attempts to appeal to the international community as a legitimate government and not a sponsor of global terrorism (a facade that is difficult to uphold). The second reason for the silence is probably due to Saifs location in Iran. This is Ideologically problematic for AQ as the Iranian regime holds diametrically opposing views both religiously and ideologically to AQ. In fact if one were to believe the ideological diatribes of AQ they would come to the conclusion that Iran should be one of AQ’s natural enemies. As such this leaves AQ open to clear claims of hypocrisy, an accusation that Terrorleaks would certainly level against the criminal network of AQ.
Nevertheless it is now widely accepted that Saif al-Adil is the new leader of AQ. Despite all of the factors that make him even more unsuitable for the role than his predecessors as well his current hypocritical location. The UN’s latest report1 on Al-Qaeda states that there is now consensus among member states on the appointment of Saif al-Adil as the new leader of Al-Qaeda. Time will now tell if he will take up the mantle publicly or continue to live a hypocritical lifestyle and AQ will proceed to fade in to insignificance against the backdrop of Daesh’s criminal activity.
Unsurprisingly the Iranian Government responded with a total denial of these accusations, though this has little plausibility due to the myriad of evidence shown over the years. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on the 16th of February denied claims by the US that al-Qaeda’s new leader, Saif al-Adel, is living in his country. “I advise White House to stop the failed Iranophobia game,” wrote Abdollahian on Twitter. “Linking Al-Qaeda to Iran is patently absurd and baseless,” he said. A not very surprising development.