The United States FBI has put a $10 million bounty on Seif al-Adel, a former Egyptian special forces officer who is now the “uncontested” leader of Al Qaeda militant group, according to a new U.N. report on the organisation.
Al Qaeda has not formally named a successor for Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Kabul last year, effectively handing a blow to the organisation since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
A United Nations report assessing risks from the group said: “In discussions in November and December, many Member States took the view that Seif al-Adel is already operating as the de facto and uncontested leader of the group.”
Zawahiri’s death increased pressure on Al-Qaeda to choose a strategic leader who can carefully plan deadly operations and run a jihadi network, experts on al Qaeda say, but unlike his already dead predecessors who maintained a high profile with fiery videos broadcast around the globe threatening the United States, the experts say Adel planned attacks behind the scenes.
Adel was indicted and charged in November 1998 by a U.S. federal grand jury for his role in the bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 others.
The US FBI says there are few photos of him, aside from three pictures – including a very serious black and white image of him on the FBI most wanted list.
According to U.S. investigators, little else is known about Adel apart from his operations in Africa, his training camps and link to the killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002.
The U.S. State Department believes Adel is based in Iran and the FBI is offering up to $10 million for information on Adel, whom it says is a member of “al Qaeda’s leadership council and heads the organisation’s military committee according to a new report published Wednesday, February 15.
The State Department says that after the Africa bombings, Adel, the former Egyptian army lieutenant colonel moved to southeastern Iran, where he lived under the protection of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
He and other Al Qaeda leaders were placed under house arrest in April 2003 by Iran, which released him and four others in exchange for an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped in Yemen.
Once Osama bin Laden’s chief bodyguard and a senior trainer of militants, experts on the jihadi movement say Adel began his long bloody career in 1981, when he was suspected of involvement in the assassination by Islamist soldiers of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat during a military parade in Cairo that was broadcast on television.
He also played a role in the ambush of U.S. helicopters in Mogadishu, known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993 which killed 18 U.S. servicemen, security experts say. That marked the beginning of the eventual withdrawal of a U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping force from Somalia.