Los Angeles Times
U.N. says Al Qaeda has new leader
UNITED NATIONS — Experts with the United Nations say the predominant view among member states is that the leadership of Al Qaeda has passed to Sayf Adl, who was responsible for Osama bin Laden’s security and trained some of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Monday that no announcement has been made of Adl replacing Ayman Zawahiri, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul in July.
“But in discussions in November and December many U.N. member states took the view that Sayf al’Adl is already operating as the de facto and uncontested leader of the group,” the report says.
Assessments vary as to why Adl’s leadership hasn’t been declared, it says.
Some countries feel that Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul embarrassed Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, who are seeking international legitimacy, and that Al Qaeda “chose not to exacerbate this by acknowledging the death,” the experts said.
“However, most judged a key factor to be the continued presence of Sayf al-’Adl in the Islamic Republic of Iran, [which] raised difficult theological and operational questions” for Al Qaeda, the experts said.
While noting that one country rejected claims that Iran is home to any Al Qaeda affiliate, the panel said Adl’s location “raises questions that have a bearing on [Al Qaeda’s] ambitions to assert leadership of a global movement in the face of challenges” from rival extremist group Islamic State.
Adl has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist as Egyptian-born Mohammed Salahaldin Abd El Halim Zidan since January 2001, the panel said. The U.N. listing describes him as taking over as military commander of Al Qaeda after the death of Mohammed Atef — one of Bin Laden’s top aides — in a U.S. attack in November 2001.
In addition to being Bin Laden’s security chief, the U.N. says, Adl taught militants to use explosives and trained some of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. It says he also trained Somali fighters who killed 18 U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993.
Adl is wanted by U.S. authorities in connection with the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
According to the report, the threat from Al Qaeda, Islamic State and their affiliates “remains high in conflict zones and neighboring countries,” with Africa emerging in recent years “as the continent where the harm done by terrorism is developing most rapidly and extensively.”