Qaeda promotes Osama bodyguard to military chief
HONG KONG: Al Qaeda has promoted Osama Bin Laden’s personal security expert to be the terrorist organisation’s new military chief, an international terrorism expert said on Monday.
Egyptian Saif al-Adel has replaced Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the organisation’s number three, said Rohan Gunaratna, a world authority on the terror network. “This is the consensus of a number of people, including myself, who have studied the succession of command in Al Qaeda,” said Mr Gunaratna.
Mr al-Adel is one of the FBI’s most wanted men and is believed to be one of the orchestrators of some of Al Qaeda’s deadliest attacks, including the bombing in 1998 of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Mr Gunaratna said Mr al-Adelwas promoted because he had demonstrated his organisational ability by shielding Mr Bin Laden from capture for so long and for his “militant performance” in a number of campaigns. “It is because of him that Bin Laden has not been captured,” he said. Despite reports that US officials believe Mr al-Adel planned last week’s Riyadh bombings from a hideout in Iran, Mr Gunaratna says the terror supremo is in hiding on the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border.
“That is the only safe place for Al Qaeda operatives to hide out,” he said.
Meanwhile, a senior US official told reporters Al Qaeda has a wider network of agents operating in Saudi Arabia than was initially believed.
“We don’t believe there are tens of thousands of active Al Qaeda members here, but we believe the Al Qaeda presence is more than a single cell or two cells,” a senior US official told reporters. Security sources in Riyadh say there are probably three to five al Qaeda cells operating in Saudi Arabia, each with several dozen members, which would bring the total in the country to a few hundred. The US official dismissed concerns reported in US media that Saudi authorities would not fully cooperate with a team of 66 FBI and CIA agents who arrived last week to help with the investigation.
Saudi officials are investigating suspected arm sales to Saudi-based Al Qaeda operatives by members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Weapons seized on May 6 at an Al Qaeda safe house in Saudi Arabia were traced to the national guard, the report said, citing Saudi and US officials. A spokesman for the Saudi foreign ministry later denied it, saying weapons found in the raid were Russian-made and that the national guard does not have Russian-made weapons in its arsenal. —Agencies