The death of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri on Sunday will now force al-Qaeda members to think about who will be his successor. Zawahiri, to whom Osama bin Laden looked up to, took over the reins of the terrorist group after bin Laden’s death in 2011 and remained the chief for more than a decade.
Following his demise, the name of another Egyptian is making the rounds. Security experts predict that Saif al-Adl could take over the leadership of the group.
A report by the Associated Press says Saif al-Adl is revered within the al-Qaeda terrorist group. The terrorists are attracted to Saif al-Adl’s charisma and believe that it will help al-Qaeda to indoctrinate more Muslims into joining the terrorist group.
The terrorist like other leaders of his group uses several aliases namely, Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi, Seif Al Adel, Ibrahim Al-Madani, according to the Most Wanted poster released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Born in the 1960s in Egypt, Saif al-Adl like Ayman al-Zawahiri affiliated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and is a high-ranking member of the al-Qaeda. The FBI and the US State Department have announced a $10 million bounty on his head.
Saif al-Adl was responsible for the deaths of close to 250 innocent people when he along with other terrorists bombed the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
Earlier in 2013, two years after the death of Osama Bin Laden, there were rumours that Saif al-Adl would become the leader. The former colonel with the Egyptian army then stepped aside and made way for Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The western democracies fear that Saif’s charisma will lead to more Muslims from Afghanistan and from across the world to join al-Qaeda.
If elected leader of the terrorist group, Saif will have to strengthen ties with far flung al-Qaeda affiliates spread from southeast Asia to Yemen to north Africa. These affiliates are locally focused jihadist organizations and feel that global jihadist organizations like al-Qaeda are ‘ detached from the realities of conflicts thousands of miles away’.
He also faces challenges from aggressive upstart extremist groups in the region like Islamic State’s Khorasan wing. It is unclear if he will have the support of the Taliban regime in the same way Zawahiri had.
(with inputs from Shalinder Wangu)