Egyptian Militant Steps into Osama’s Shoes

Saif al-Adel, a top al-Qaeda strategist and senior military leader, has been tapped as “caretaker” chief of the group.

By Eric Sande

A former Egyptian Special Forces officer turned al-Qaeda militant has been chosen to head Osama bin Laden’s terror network temporarily until the slain leader’s successor is officially named.

Saif al-Adel, is said to be a longtime associate of Osama bin Laden. He is a veteran of the jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and has a reputation as a skilled operational planner and pragmatic commander.

“Al-Qaeda’s interim leader is Saif al-Adel, who has long played a prominent role in the group,” CNN said citing Noman Benotman, who has known the al-Qaeda leadership for more than two decades.

One of the lesser-known stories about his past involves his unofficial role as “caretaker” for the Khadr family.

Egyptian-born Canadian Ahmed Said Khadr was associated with al-Adel and many of Al Qaeda’s Egyptian commanders in the late 1980s and 1990s, when he lived with his family in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

News of al-Adel’s appointment as an interim leader was uncovered Tuesday by Noman Benotman, a former Libyan fighter aligned with Al Qaeda, now working at London’s counter-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation.

Bin Laden’s long-time deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, another Egyptian, is considered to be his presumed successor. Benotman said the appointment of Adel on a temporary basis may be a way for the group to gauge reaction to having someone outside the Muslim holy region of the Arabian Peninsula at the helm.

Author Lawrence Wright in describing Al Qaeda’s roots in his book Looming Tower, said al-Adel travelled with bin Laden from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996. “Saif al Adel, later to become al Qaeda’s military chief, sat in the co-pilot’s seat holding a map so he could direct the Russian pilot, who didn’t speak Arabic and whom they didn’t trust,” Wright wrote.

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