Al-Qaeda fears as terrorist group gets new leader ‘worse than Osama bin Laden’

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Al-Qaeda has a ruthless new leader dubbed "the Sword of Revenge" and it's feared the group could rise to the same level of power it wielded at the beginning of the century.

Saif al-Adel is a former military general, a "brilliant and ruthless strategist" and is tipped to take the reins from Ayman Zawahiri, who is rumoured to be dead.

The change in leadership has intelligence agencies around the world bracing for an "al-Qaeda rebrand", the Mirror reports.

British and American spies have been monitoring Saif's movements for years as he has been involved in every al-Qaeda outrage launched in three decades.

Egyptian jihad veteran Ayman Zawahiri took over following Osama bin Laden's death in 2011 but has hardly been heard of for years.

Former FBI counter-terror expert Ali Soufan wrote that Saif, 60, may be "the third Emir of al-Qaeda" with a three decade terror CV under his belt.

Saif already has a £7.5 million US bounty on his head, wanted for the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing 224.

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Veteran fighter Saif headed bin Laden's personal "Black Guard" close protection unit in Afghanistan, and one person who knew him then said cold-hearted Saif was always: "the least affected by the deaths of innocent civilians".

Saif introduced Islamic State founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and 9-11 plotter Khaled Sheikh Mohammed to bin Laden and was involved in the 1993 Black Hawk Down battle in Somalia.

Counter terror veteran Soufan wrote recently: "Saif's revered status with the movement as well as his deep experience as a military intelligence and security leader and terrorist planner make him a potentially dangerous emir."

Saif could merge his network with ISIS and has solidified al-Qaeda's bonds with Iran and the Afghanistan Taliban.

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British terrorism expert Colonel Richard Kemp, whose job was once to monitor Saif's movements for the British government in the early 2000s, told the Daily Mirror: "He is highly likely to be the new leader as he is hugely respected amongst al-Qaeda but crucially he also respected amongst Islamic State.

"Not only could he be the new boss of al-Qaeda but he could also entice members of ISIS to join al-Qaeda or cause some kind of fusion between the two.

"There is co-operation between groups like this but Saif is so well-respected that he could cause even greater co-operation or even a merger.

"He's an intelligent, strategic thinker and al-Qaeda has been in the doldrums under Zawahiri. All of this is about leadership and he could re-energise the movement.

"He could make al-Qaeda a much more effective organisation than it has been for a few years.

"He would know the place to make impact is not so much in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East but to garner support and reinvigorate the organisation he would look at Europe and the US.

"The other thing to consider is his Iranian base, as Iran had facilitated al-Qaeda attacks before. That is hugely problematic for us.

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"People don't understand this – they say Iran could not support these groups because Iran is Shia and al-Qaeda is a Sunni group but simply is not true.

"Iran will support them. If they want America attacks they would rather al-Qaeda did it with their support so they do not get targeted. They have done it many times before.

"British intelligence has been aware of this man for many many years now and have been monitoring his movements and activities as far as possible.

"He was recognised then as being a very significant figure in al-Qaeda, in the top three or five.

"Now he is probably the top one now, with the demise of bin Laden and the potential demise of Zawahiri, his importance is even greater and more dangerous.

"Compared to Zawahiri he is likely to be a much more effective leader, at least so or more so even than bin Laden."

  • Terror
  • Military

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