Sayf al-Adl takes over as Al-Qaeda’s leader: U.N. Experts

New York (Caasimada Online) – In a report to the United Nations Security Council, a panel of experts revealed that the leadership of Al Qaeda has likely passed to Sayf Adl, a former security chief responsible for Osama bin Laden’s safety and who trained some of the hijackers behind the 9/11 attack on the U.S. 

Despite not making any official announcement, many member states have taken the view that Adl is already operating as the group’s de facto and uncontested leader.

The report notes that while Al Qaeda has not publicly acknowledged Ayman Zawahiri’s death, many member states feel that Adl is already operating as the group’s de facto leader. 

Why has Adl’s leadership yet to be declared?

The reasons behind the lack of a formal announcement of Adl’s leadership are subject to various interpretations, with some speculating that Al Qaeda refrained from acknowledging Zawahiri’s death to avoid embarrassing the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and others suggesting that Adl’s continued presence in Iran creates theological and operational complications for the group’s leadership aspirations. 

Although one country disputed the claim that Iran hosts any Al Qaeda affiliate, Adl’s location does raise questions for the organization’s global ambitions in the face of competition from the rival extremist group, Islamic State.

Adl’s role in Al-Qaeda and U.S. connections

The report notes that Adl, listed on the U.N. sanctions blacklist as Egyptian-born Mohammed Salahaldin Abd El Halim Zidan, has long been a target of U.S. authorities in connection with terrorist attacks such as the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. 

Besides being Bin Laden’s security chief, Adl also played a significant role in training militants to use explosives and preparing some of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attack. 

The U.N. panel also highlights Adl’s role in training militants to use explosives and his training of Somali fighters responsible for the deaths of 18 U.S. service members in Mogadishu in 1993.

Threats from Al Qaeda and Islamic State

The report further stresses that the threat posed by Al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates remains high in conflict zones and neighboring countries, with Africa being the continent where terrorism has had the most rapid and extensive impact in recent years. 

The leadership of the Islamic State has also been called into question following the recent announcement of Abu Hassan Hashimi Qurayshi’s death in a battle. The group’s second leader to be killed in 2022, Qurayshi, was succeeded by a new leader, Abu al-Husain al-Husaini al-Qurashi, about whom very little is known.

The report states that members of the United Nations have noted a number of pledges of allegiance to Abu Husain by Islamic State affiliates without knowledge of his true identity or leadership qualities.