By Amr Farouk, writer and researcher on terrorist groups
Over the past years, the atmosphere within the Al-Qaeda organization has not calmed down due to the successive strikes targeting many of its influential leaders, especially historical figures who have been part of the intellectual and organizational reference of the al-Qaeda entity since its establishment at the end of the eighties of the last century.
Many observers of the terrorist groups’ files are aware that “Al-Qaeda” is in a state of disintegration and retreat since Ayman al-Zawahiri control of the organization’s joints after the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011.”
Despite the various indications that suggest the end of the “Al-Qaeda” organization is imminent and its decline significantly, Mohamed Salah Zeidan, nicknamed “Saif Al-Adl,” born in Egypt in 1963, remains one of the components of the survival and expansion equation. He represents the influential military reference and expert in the sector and branches of the organization. plagued by fragility and disintegration.
The organization had received a series of blows to its effectiveness, the most important of which was the news about the death of its leader, Al-Zawahiri, after his health deteriorated in November 2020. These blows were frequent and based on the preferences of extremist circles affiliated with Al-Qaeda, through the Telegram application. At the forefront of these organizations is “Guardians of Religion Organization,” one of the main arms in Syria, in addition to the assertions of Rita Katz, director of the American website “SITE”, which deals with the affairs of terrorist organizations and extremist movements, on her Twitter account.
In recent days, the British newspaper “Daily Mail” reported that Saif Al-Adl was hiding in Iran and that he took over the leadership of the organization, succeeding al-Zawahiri, and was preparing a “new formula for the organization.”
Saif Al-Adl was associated with the “Egyptian Jihad” organization, according to the information mentioned by the American Anti-Terrorism Program. He worked as an expert in the manufacture of explosives and was in charge of the “Security Committee” of Bin Laden’s organization. He was close to Mullah Omar, the ruler of the Taliban during his stay هn Kandahar.
In May 1987, Saif Al-Adl was arrested in the case known in the media as “reviving the Jihad organization,” and being involved in the attempt to assassinate the Egyptian Interior Minister Hassan Abu Basha, before he was released due to insufficient evidence, to flee to Saudi Arabia, and from there to Sudan then to Afghanistan. In 1989, he decided to join the “Al Qaeda” organization.
Saif Al-Adl was not one of the first founders of Al-Qaeda, but he played a key role in building the organization’s military and rehabilitation capabilities, thanks to his military expertise.
Many of the foundations, experiences of the encyclopedia of the “Al-Qaeda” military organization were developed by “Saif Al-Adl”, which later became a reference for terrorist organizations, such as security raids, methods of carrying out kidnappings and assassinations, monitoring and follow-ups, methods of collecting military and intelligence information, and how to target the elements to be assassinated and other rehabilitative capabilities that strengthened “Al-Qaeda” organization.
At the beginning of the nineties of the last century, Saif Al-Adl traveled to Somalia to set up training camps for militants, to target peacekeepers, especially the Americans. At that time, the United States charged him with involvement in the killing of 18 American recruits, in Mogadishu in 1993.
Washington has offered a reward of five million dollars to anyone who provides information leading to his arrest, and has put his name on the FBI’s list of the most wanted terrorists.
During the US invasion of Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Saif Al-Adl accompanied by a number of al-Qaeda leaders, went to Iran, within the framework of understandings between the two sides. At that time he managed to oversee a group of terrorist operations attributed to the organization, and played an important role in the Riyadh bombings in May 2003. As a result, Saudi Arabia and the United States pressured Tehran to imprison him, and he was actually placed under house arrest.
On September 19, 2015, US intelligence reports revealed that Tehran had concluded a secret deal with the “Al Qaeda” organization, to release 5 of its leaders, including Saif al-Adl, and placed them under house arrest in exchange for the liberation of an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped in Yemen. This came after the American forces invaded most of the Afghan lands.
Many American reports that dealt with the role of Saif al-Adl in trying to revive Al-Qaeda and restore it to its geographical position indicated its endeavor to structure the branches, ensure their loyalty, and turn them into an anchor through establishing alliances with a number of armed movements that tend to Al-Qaeda ideological orientation, as well as obstructing the attempts of “ISIS” to win over its members and leaders.
Saif al-Adl married the daughter of the Egyptian takfirist, who is listed by the US Treasury on the list of international terrorism, Mustafa Hamed, known as “Abu Al-Waleed Al-Masry,” or “Sheikh of the Arab Mujahideen.” He worked as a correspondent for the “Al-Jazeera” channel in Kandahar between two years 1998-2001, and he moved to reside in Iran in 2002, and stayed there until he returned to Cairo in 2011, and from there to Qatar in 2013, to settle in Iran again in 2016.
During 2017, Differences erupted within the Al-Qaeda organization, in light of the organizational rules’s demands for Al-Zawahiri to step down from the scene completely, and to allow some leaders to manage the organization’s situation after its political and movement receding from the arena, at a time when the “ISIS” organization took over the armed jihadism situation.
The organization’s leaders considered that Al-Zawahiri had failed to occupy the position of Osama bin Laden, and to be an extension of his intellectual and organizational project, due to the weakness of his personality and his lack of appropriate kinetic charisma that would enable him to control the joints and branches of the organization, and to attract more followers and loyalists to the idea.
Many followers of militant Islam and jihadist Salafist currents believe that Al-Zawahiri has destroyed the fate and future of Al-Qaeda. He failed to preserve the legacy and project of Osama bin Laden, which was established at the end of the eighties of the last century and brought about a change in the global political map, especially after the events of September 11th in 2001.
Then, observers of the armed Salafi jihadist organizations see that Khalifa al-Zawahiri will face many challenges about the survival and continuity of the Al-Qaeda entity in light of the decentralization of the decision and the strength of the branches and their leaders in contrast to the weakness of the leadership that is controlling the internal scene. At the same time, the organization is witnessing a state of Conflict and direct confrontation with ISIS on the intellectual, organizational, movement and ideological level as well.
It was expected that the second man in the Al-Qaeda organization “Abu Mohammed al-Masri” would be a substitute for Al-Zawahiri in the event of his death.
US intelligence officials confirmed that al-Masri was killed in the Iranian capital, Tehran, accompanied by his daughter Maryam, the widower of Hamza bin Laden, in October 2020 by Israeli agents, according to what was revealed by the “New York Times” newspaper
Accompanied by his daughter Maryam, widower of Hamza bin Laden, in October 2020 at the hands of Israeli agents, according to what was revealed by the “New York Times”.
Al-Masri’s daughter got married to Hamza bin Laden, and he also had a lineage relationship with Muhammad Eid Ibrahim Sharaf, whose nickname is Abu al-Faraj al-Yamani, responsible for the Sharia Committee of the Egyptian Jihad. Abu al-Faraj al-Yamani was received by the Egyptian security services from the UAE authorities in August 2002, after being sentenced in absentia, to 10 years imprisonment, in the case of “returnees from Albania.”
Abu Mohamed al-Masri was accused of directly overseeing the 1998 American embassy bombings in Africa, which killed 231 people, including 12 Americans. His name was also linked to the 2003 “Riyadh attacks”, which came, according to US intelligence reports, that orders were issued from Southern Iran by the leaders of Al-Qaeda fleeing from Afghanistan to Iran headed by the leader Abo Mohamed Al-Masry and Saif Al-Adl, the military official of Al-Qaeda, and their association with the mediator Ali Abdul-Rahman Al-Ghamdi, who is known as Abu Bakr Al-Azdi, the official of the Al-Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia. Abu Bakr Al-Azdi is one of the most wanted persons on the list of 19 in the “Riyadh bombings”, and the link between the leaders of “Al Qaeda” in Iran and the executing cell.
Abu Mohamed al-Masri is on the list of the most wanted people in the world, which includes the top leaders of the “Al-Qaeda” organization who are being pursued by the United States.
In mid-2016, leaders from within the organization leaked a document on the successors of Al-Zawahiri in the event of his death or death, drawn up by the Al-Qaeda Shura Council, in order to avoid clashes and disagreements between the members of the organization, especially in light of the talk about the nomination of Hamza bin Laden (before his death in September 2019). Then, Khalifa Al-Zawahiri continued the path of his father, who represents a dominant situation in the armed Takfiri arena.
The document came out with complete disregard for Hamza bin Laden, without being among the influential and active leaders in the al-Qaeda scene, which is supposed to be a substitute for al-Zawahiri in the event of his death according to a balanced organizational hierarchy.
At the forefront of the document leaked from within the organizational entity, Abdullah Mohamad Ragab Abdul Rahman, known as “Abu al-Khair al-Masri,” who was targeted in February 2017 by an American raid in Syria, followed by Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, known as “Abu Mohamed al-Masri,” the deputy of Al-Zawahiri, who was killed in October 2020.
He was followed by Saif Al-Adl, the new leader of Al-Qaeda who is likely to be near the Iranian border. Some intelligence reports confirming his movement in the African depth, in order to arrange the “al-Qaeda” scene due to his complex relationship with a number of Somali tribes in particular, and he came in the organizational hierarchy, Nasser Al-Wahaishi or “Abu Basir”, who was targeted in a drone strike, in Hadramawt, eastern Yemen, on June 12, 2015.
The targeting of influential leaders within the “Al-Qaeda” organization did not stop there but included Qasim Al-Rimi, known as “Abu Huraira Al-Sanani”, who took over the leadership of the “Al-Qaeda in Yemen” branch in 2015 and was killed during an American raid in January 2020, to be succeeded by Khalid bin Omar Batarfi.
Likewise, Hossam Abdel Raouf, nicknamed “Abu Mohsen Al-Masry”, the media official within the organization, was killed in October 2020, by the Afghan authorities, and Ali Maishu, nicknamed “Abu Abdulrahman Al-Maghribi”, a leader in the “Support for Islam and Muslims” group affiliated with the organization, was targeted. Al-Qaeda in the Sahel and Sahara region in Africa in September 2019.
In February 2019 Jamal Okasha, known as Yahya Abu Al Hamam, Emir of the Emirate of the Sahara, affiliated with the organization in the Maghreb, was killed. In addition to the killing of Abdelmalek Droukdel, nicknamed “Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud,” the leader of “Al Qaeda in the Maghreb”, in An operation by the French forces in Mali in June 2020.
In October 2020, Abu Muhamed al-Sudani was killed. He is one of the leaders of the “Guardians of Religion Organization” affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Syria, and one of the figures close to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Translated by Ahmad El-Assasy
This article was prepared by By Amr Farouk in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of SEE or its members.