Saif al-Adel takes over as leader of Al-Qaeda: What you need to know?

Washington (Caasimada Online) – Saif al-Adel, a former lieutenant colonel in the Egyptian special forces, has taken over as the new de facto leader of Al-Qaeda, according to the US State Department and the United Nations. 

This has significant implications for the future of the organization and its operations, as well as the broader jihadi movement. 

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of Saif al-Adel’s background, his involvement with Al-Qaeda, and the implications of his leadership for the organization and the broader jihadi movement. 

We will also examine the challenges that Al-Qaeda faces under his leadership and the potential risks that this poses to global security. 

Saif al-Adel: A brief overview 

Saif al-Adel, whose real name is Mohammed Salahuddin Zeidan, is a prominent figure in Al-Qaeda’s old guard. He has been instrumental in building the group’s operational capacity and training some of the hijackers who participated in the September 11, 2001, attack on the US, according to the US Counter Extremism Project.

Adel’s military background and experience have made him a respected figure within Al-Qaeda, and his actions have been described as ruthless and efficient.

However, some insiders argue that he is not equipped for leadership and is better suited for the organization of armed operations than the administration of a vast network of affiliates.

Adel has resided in Iran since 2002 or 2003, initially under house arrest but later free enough to travel to Pakistan, according to Ali Soufan, a former FBI counter-terrorism investigator. His location in Iran raises questions about Al-Qaeda’s leadership ambitions, particularly in the face of challenges from the Islamic State group. 

Adel’s leadership of Al-Qaeda 

Saif al-Adel’s takeover as the new de facto leader of Al-Qaeda represents continuity for the organization, at least for now. However, the group has not officially declared him an “emir” due to the Taliban authorities’ sensitivity over the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed in Kabul by a US rocket last year.  

Likewise, Al-Qaeda is sensitive to Adel residing in Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, as he is a Sunni Islamist. 

The United Nations report assessing the risks posed by Al-Qaeda suggests that Adel is the group’s “uncontested” leader, with a $10 million US bounty on his head.  

The report states that the pressure is now on the group to choose a strategic leader who can carefully plan deadly operations and run a jihadi network.

Adel, unlike his predecessors, maintains a low profile and plans attacks from the shadows, turning Al-Qaeda into the world’s deadliest militant group.  

He was indicted and charged in November 1998 for his involvement in the bomb attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000. 

Challenges and risks under Adel’s leadership

Under Saif al-Adel’s leadership, Al-Qaeda faces several challenges and risks. Firstly, the group has lost significant ground to the Islamic State group in recent years. Adel will need to work hard to restore Al-Qaeda’s reputation as the leading jihadi group.

Secondly, Adel’s location in Iran raises questions about Al-Qaeda’s relationships with other states, particularly given Iran’s predominantly Shiite population and its traditional rivalry with Sunni states. This could create tensions within the group and potentially limit its ability to operate effectively. 

Finally, the United States and its allies will undoubtedly increase their efforts to target Al-Qaeda under Adel’s leadership. This could lead to a new wave of drone strikes and other military operations against the group, further weakening its operational capacity and undermining its ability to launch attacks.

Implications for global security 

Saif al-Adel’s leadership of Al-Qaeda has significant implications for global security. Al-Qaeda remains one of the most dangerous jihadi groups in the world, with a long history of deadly attacks against civilian and military targets. 

Under Adel’s leadership, the group will likely continue to prioritize the use of violence to achieve its goals and target a range of countries and groups that it perceives as enemies. This could include the United States, its allies in the Middle East, and other targets that Al-Qaeda perceives as symbols of Western imperialism and oppression.

The international community will need to work together to counter the threat posed by Al-Qaeda under Adel’s leadership. This will require close cooperation between intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, and military forces worldwide and a sustained effort to counter the ideology of violent jihadism that underpins Al-Qaeda’s activities. 


Saif al-Adel’s takeover as the new de facto leader of Al-Qaeda represents a significant development in the ongoing struggle against jihadi terrorism. 

Adel’s background, experience, and reputation within Al-Qaeda make him a formidable leader, but his location in Iran and the challenges facing the group will make his leadership difficult.

The international community must remain vigilant in the face of the ongoing threat posed by Al-Qaeda under Adel’s leadership.  

This will require a sustained and coordinated effort to disrupt the group’s activities and counter its ideology and a continued commitment to working together to maintain global security and stability.