Washington: A former Egyptian military 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, a former Egyptian special forces officer, has been chosen as the interim head of al Qaeda, a fortnight after its chief was killed by US forces in Pakistan, CNN reported.
Al Adel is believed to have served as a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group responsible for the assassination of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 and is also believed to have fought the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
“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 al Qaeda leadership for more than two decades.
He was once a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant organisation that used to be aligned with al Qaeda, but has in recent years renounced al Qaeda’s ideology, the news channel reported.
Benotman told CNN that based on his personal communication with militants and discussions on jihadist forums, al-Adel, also known as Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi, had been chosen interim chief of al Qaeda because the global jihadist community had grown restive in recent days about the lack of a formal announcement of a successor to bin Laden.
The presumed successor to bin Laden is his long-time deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is also Egyptian.
Benotman, who has long been a reliable source of information about al Qaeda, said the appointment of al-Adel as the “caretaker” chief may be a way for the leadership to gauge a reaction to the selection of someone from beyond the Arabian Peninsula as the group’s leader, CNN reported.
According to the news network, al-Adel fought the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
After the fall of the Taliban in the winter of 2001 he fled to Iran.
According to senior Saudi counterterrorism officials, from there al-Adel authorised al Qaeda’s branch in Saudi Arabia to begin a campaign of terrorist attacks in the Saudi kingdom that began in Riyadh in May 2003, in a campaign that killed scores.