News, Culture & Society

Is this Al-Qaeda’s next chief? Heir apparent ‘oversaw Black Hawk Down’ and helped carry out 9/11

Pictured in just one of three published photos, al-Adel is the likely successor to the al-Qaeda throne. He is credited with masterminding the bombings of three US embassies in 1998 as well as playing a key role in the notorious ‘Black Hawk Down’ plot

The heir apparent to the al-Qaeda throne after tonight’s confirmed death of Ayman al-Zawahiri is a canny, military-trained operative with experience killing British and American soldiers. 

Egyptian ex-army officer Saif al-Adel was a founding member of al-Qaeda, having joined pre-cursor terrorist group Maktab al-Khidamat in the late-1980s.

There he met future allies Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, whose separate group Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) he would soon join.

Little else is known about Saif al-Adel, who at around 60 years of age is one of the younger al-Qaeda bosses.

Al-Adel was around 30 when he oversaw the infamous ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, in which 19 American soldiers were killed and had their bodies dragged through the streets.

Seven more were slain when two helicopters were shot down in the east Africa ambush, including two British soldiers, three Turks and a Frenchman.

And since the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, al-Adel has become an increasingly important strategist within the depleting terror cell.

The only thing standing in his way to become the next al-Qaeda leader is that he is likely stuck in Iran – and may well have been for the past 19 years.

Al-Adel is pictured (centre) on an al-Qaeda who's who published in 2005. Osama bin Laden is pictured top-left, with al-Zawahiri to his right and Mullah Omar to the right of al-Zawahiri. Saif is now one of the only original al-Qaeda leaders still alive

Al-Adel is pictured (centre) on an al-Qaeda who’s who published in 2005. Osama bin Laden is pictured top-left, with al-Zawahiri to his right and Mullah Omar to the right of al-Zawahiri. Saif is now one of the only original al-Qaeda leaders still alive

The FBI Most Wanted poster on Al-Adel states the reward of up to $10million for information

The FBI Most Wanted poster on Al-Adel states the reward of up to $10million for information

In 2003, Iranian Ambassador to the UN Javad Zarif refused to confirm nor deny whether al-Adel was being held in the country. 

Al-Adel has risen to the top of al-Qaeda as much because of his own talents as by the United States' ruthlessness in killing his superiors

Al-Adel has risen to the top of al-Qaeda as much because of his own talents as by the United States’ ruthlessness in killing his superiors

He told ABC News that terrorists tend to have multiple passports, with the Iranian government unable to confirm their identities.

With what’s left of al-Qaeda now based in Afghanistan – and in coexistence with the Taliban – al-Adel’s geographic isolation could stop him taking the helm, foreign policy analyst Charles Lister suggested tonight.

With his real name thought to be Mohammed Salah al-Din Zaidan, al-Adel’s made-up moniker translates to ‘Sword of Justice’.

Thought not as brainwashed by Islamist ideology as his al-Qaeda colleagues, al-Adel used his military training to rise to the top of the shadowy organisation in the wake of the September 11 attacks, in which senior operatives killed themselves.

Al-Adel was in fact against the so-called ‘Planes Operation’, as it was known by members of the terror cell.

But he helped organise the single most deadly terrorist attack in history after bin Laden became committed to the idea.

According to ex-FBI agent and counter-terrorism expert Ali Soufan, who suggested al-Adel would be ‘al-Qaeda’s next leader’ last year, Saif possesses a ‘poker face’ and a ‘caustic tongue’.

President Biden confirmed tonight in an address from the White House that an American drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan

President Biden confirmed tonight in an address from the White House that an American drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan

When training young soldiers, he was known to kidnap them in the middle of the night and conduct savage beatings in order to harden the troops.

Al-Adel has risen to the top of al-Qaeda as much because of his own talents as by the United States’ ruthlessness in killing his superiors.

Osama’s assumed successor son Hamza was killed in 2019 and fellow senior strategist Abu Muhammad al-Masri was assassinated in 2020. 

US intelligence states: ‘Al-Adel is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.’

Two hundred and twenty-four people died in the three East Africa blasts, including 12 Americans, with more than 4,500 people wounded.

A $10million reward for information has been placed on al-Adel’s head.

And with ex-leader al-Zawahiri now slain, the attention of America’s terrorist hunters will likely go onto Saif al-Adel.

Al-Zawahiri, who took over Al-Qaeda after Bin Laden’s death in 2011, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan following a US airstrike this evening.

The terrorist leader is said to have guided Al-Qaeda to become one of the biggest radical movements, having been identified as a mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Saif al-Aled's rival, Osama Bin Laden's son Hamza, was killed by American forces in 2019

Saif al-Aled’s rival, Osama Bin Laden’s son Hamza, was killed by American forces in 2019 

Hamza bin Laden as a child

Osama bin Laden

Hamza bin Laden (left as a child) is the son of deceased former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (right) who is believed to have groomed him to take over the terror group

At 15, the Egyptian spearheaded his own militant group, Jamaat al-Jihad, that championed large-scale attacks and the murder of civilians.

As it grew, he later merged it with Al-Qaeda in the 1990s, bringing this focus on indiscriminate killing to the terrorist group.

The 71-year-old was on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list, having declared the US ‘the far enemy’, with a $25 million reward for information leading directly to him.

The surgeon led a terrorist lab developing biological weapons and was the force behind Al-Qaeda’s ambition to gain nuclear weapons.

‘To kill Americans and their allies — civilian and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in every country in which it is possible to do it, Al-Zawahiri wrote in a 1998 manifesto.

Three years later, he helped plan the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahiri was planned follow-on attacks across the US, and started a biological weapons program in Afghanistan. He sent group disciples out to find lethal strains of anthrax and scientists that would engage with his plans.

However, the Egyptian abandoned the biological weapons laboratory after a US-backed military effort forced Taliban allies of Al-Qaeda out of power in Afghanistan.

It comes after a top ISIS official was assassinated by the United States early in July when he and his deputy were hit by an American drone strike in northwest Syria.

The strike killed senior ISIS leader Maher al-Agal, US officials said, taking credit for the daytime attack in the northern village of Khaltan in the Syrian countryside.

Al-Agal – one of the top five leaders in the terrorist group – was riding a motorbike in the village when he was targeted by the American missile, which killed him instantly.

Another senior ISIS official was also hit by the attack, officials said, but survived. The official, who was not named, was reportedly wounded.

Al-Agal’s body, which was badly burned and mutilated in the attack, was transported to an Idlib hospital. 

The attack took place in the Jenderies district in Afrin – an area northwest of Aleppo, near the country’s shared border with Turkey.

The war-torn region has been under occupation by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) since March 2018.

The strike killed senior ISIS leader Maher al-Agal taking credit for the attack in the northern village of Khaltan in the Syrian countryside. Pictured are Syrian Civil Defence officials surveying the site

The strike killed senior ISIS leader Maher al-Agal taking credit for the attack in the northern village of Khaltan in the Syrian countryside. Pictured are Syrian Civil Defence officials surveying the site

The attack took place in the Jenderies district in Afrin - an area northwest of Aleppo, near the country's shared border with Turkey. The region has become a haven for hundreds of ISIS terrorists and leaders in recent years, as the country continues to face a civil war

The attack took place in the Jenderies district in Afrin – an area northwest of Aleppo, near the country’s shared border with Turkey. The region has become a haven for hundreds of ISIS terrorists and leaders in recent years, as the country continues to face a civil war

In January 2020, the United States carried out an airstrike that killed a leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen after months of tracking him. 

Qassim al-Rimi, 41, was killed in the January strike but officials had been waiting to confirm the information before making public statement. 

A $5million reward for any information leading to his capture was offered by the State Department. It was late doubled to $10million as al-Rimi was linked to numerous plots against the U.S.

A $5million reward for any information leading to his capture was offered by the State Department. It was late doubled to $10million as al-Rimi was linked to numerous plots against the U.S.

In November, CIA personnel learned of al-Rimi’s location from an informant. The government then started using surveillance drones to track him, according to an U.S. official who was briefed on the strike. 

Local news in Yemen reports that the strike killed two militant suspects in the area of Wadi Abedah in central Yemen, but did not identify who those people were. 

Al-Rimi is a veteran of the Queda training camps in Afghanistan and whose ‘terrorist pedigree traces to the era before the September 11 attacks,’ NYT reports.  

He then returned to Yemen and was sentenced to five years in prison there for plotting to kill the American ambassador there. 

Al-Rimi broke out of jail after only a year and quickly rose in the ranks of the Qaeda affiliate. 

A $5million reward for any information leading to his capture was offered by the State Department. It was late doubled to $10million as al-Rimi was linked to numerous plots against the U.S. 

In 2017, al-Rimi notably sent President Donald Trump an audio message taunting him for a Special Operations Forces raid on an al Qaeda compound in Yemen that led to the first military combat death under the Trump administration, CNN reports.   

Qassim al-Rimi, 41, was killed in the January strike but officials had been waiting to confirm the information before making public statement

Qassim al-Rimi, 41, was killed in the January strike but officials had been waiting to confirm the information before making public statement

President Joe Biden confirmed the leader of ISIS was dead in February in what he described as a cowardly move to blow up himself and his family instead of facing justice for his terrorists acts. 

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi set off a bomb that killed himself as well as his wife and two children during a raid by U.S. commandos on a house in northwest Syria.

‘United States military forces successfully removed a major terrorist threat to the world,’ Biden said in remarks at the White House.

Thirteen were reported killed, including six children and four women during the mission, which involved 24 Special Operations commandos backed by attack jets, Reaper drones and helicopter gunships.

‘As a final act of desperate cowardness, [al-Qurayshi] with no regard to the lives of his own family or others in the building, he chose to blow himself up,’ Biden said, adding the ISIS leader blew up ‘that third floor rather than face justice for the crimes he has committed, taking several members of his family with him.’ 

ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi set off a bomb that blew himself up during a raid by U.S. special forces

ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi set off a bomb that blew himself up during a raid by U.S. special forces

‘This horrible terrorist leader is no more,’ he added. 

After al-Qurayshi was named the head of ISIS in 2019, the United States put a bounty of up to $10 million on his head. 

Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and national security aides monitored a live-feed of the operation from the White House Situation Room, according to a photo released by the administration.

‘This operation is testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats, no matter where they try to hide anywhere in the world. I’m determined to protect the American people from terrorist threats, and I’ll take decisive action to protect this country,’ Biden said in his short remarks where he took no questions.

‘We remain vigilant. We remain prepared. Last night’s operation took a major terrorist leader off the battlefield and sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: We will come after you and find you,’ the president added.

In the raid, U.S. special forces landed in helicopters and assaulted the house in a rebel-held corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, clashing for two hours with gunmen, witnesses said in local reports.

The raid targeted a large house in Atmeh in the Idlib region of Syria where the ISIS leader was hiding.  The three-story house was left with its top floor shattered in the wake of al-Qurayshi’s suicide bomb.

It was a gruesome scene, according to local reports, with blood splattered on the white bricks that constructed the home and body parts scattered around the area.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, also known as Abdullah Qardash or Hajji Abdullah, became the leader of the ISIS terrorist organization after former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also blew himself up in a similar raid by U.S. forces in 2019 in the nearby town of Barisha. 

American helicopters carrying 24 commandoes arrived just after 1am. When they left two hours later ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was dead

American helicopters carrying 24 commandoes arrived just after 1am. When they left two hours later ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was dead

A general view shows on February 3, 2022 the scene following an overnight raid by US special operations forces against a suspected high-ranking jihadist in Atmeh, in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which left at least 13 people dead

A general view shows on February 3, 2022 the scene following an overnight raid by US special operations forces against a suspected high-ranking jihadist in Atmeh, in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, which left at least 13 people dead

A Syrian man takes a picture of a blood soaked kitchen at the scene of a US anti-terror raid in Atmeh, Idlib

A Syrian man takes a picture of a blood soaked kitchen at the scene of a US anti-terror raid in Atmeh, Idlib

The raid by the U.S. commandos targeted a suspected jihadist leader in a house in Syria's northern town of Atmeh. The operation, which residents say lasted about two hours, jolted the village near the Turkish border - an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria's civil war. The target was killed in Atmeh, located mere miles from the town of Barisha where former ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019

The raid by the U.S. commandos targeted a suspected jihadist leader in a house in Syria’s northern town of Atmeh. The operation, which residents say lasted about two hours, jolted the village near the Turkish border – an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria’s civil war. The target was killed in Atmeh, located mere miles from the town of Barisha where former ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019

This combination of pictures created on February 3, 2022, from images released by the US Department of Defense shows the compound housing ISIS leader Al-Qurayshi

This combination of pictures created on February 3, 2022, from images released by the US Department of Defense shows the compound housing ISIS leader Al-Qurayshi

 

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk