Pictured in just one of three published photos, al-Adel is the likely successor to the al-Qaeda throne. He is credited with masterminding the bombings of three US embassies in 1998 as well as playing a key role in the notorious ‘Black Hawk Down’ plot
The heir apparent to the al-Qaeda throne after the death tonight of Ayman al-Zawahri is a canny, military-trained operative with experience killing British and American soldiers.
Little is known about Saif al-Adel, who at around 60 years of age is one of the younger al-Qaeda bosses.
The Egyptian ex-army officer was just 30 or so when he oversaw the infamous ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, in which 19 American soldiers were killed and had their bodies dragged through the streets.
Seven more were slain when two helicopters were shot down in the east Africa ambush, including two British soldiers, three Turks and a Frenchman.
And since the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, al-Adel has become an increasingly important strategist within the depleting terror cell.
With his birth name unknown, al-Adel’s made-up moniker translates to ‘Sword of Justice’.
Thought not as brainwashed by Islamist ideology as his al-Qaeda colleagues, al-Adel used his military training to rise to the top of the shadowy organisation in the wake of the September 11 attacks, in which senior operatives killed themselves.
Al-Adel was in fact against the so-called ‘Planes Operation’, as it was known by members of the terror cell.
Al-Adel is pictured (centre) on an al-Qaeda who’s who published in 2005. Osama bin Laden is pictured top-left, with al-Zawahri to his right and Mullah Omar to the right of al-Zawahri. Saif is now one of the only original al-Qaeda leaders still alive
The FBI Most Wanted poster on Al-Adel states the reward of up to $10million for information
Al-Adel has risen to the top of al-Qaeda as much because of his own talents as by the United States’ ruthlessness in killing his superiors
But he helped organise the single most deadly terrorist attack in history after bin Laden became committed to the idea.
According to ex-FBI agent and counter-terrorism expert Ali Soufan, who suggested al-Adel would be ‘al-Qaeda’s next leader’ last year, Saif possesses a ‘poker face’ and a ‘caustic tongue’.
When training young soldiers, he was known to kidnap them in the middle of the night and conduct savage beatings in order to harden the troops.
Al-Adel has risen to the top of al-Qaeda as much because of his own talents as by the United States’ ruthlessness in killing his superiors.
Osama’s assumed successor son Hamza was killed in 2019 and fellow senior strategist Abu Muhammad al-Masri was assassinated in 2020.
US intelligence states: ‘Al-Adel is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.’
Two hundred and twenty-four people died in the three East Africa blasts, including 12 Americans, with more than 4,500 people wounded.
A $10million reward for information has been placed on al-Adel’s head.
And with ex-leader al-Zawahri now slain, the attention of America’s terrorist hunters will likely go onto Saif al-Adel.
Al-Zawahiri, who took over Al-Qaeda after Bin Laden’s death in 2011, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan following a US airstrike this evening.
The terrorist leader is said to have guided Al-Qaeda to become one of the biggest radical movements, having been identified as a mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Saif al-Aled’s rival, Osama Bin Laden’s son Hamza, was killed by American forces in 2019
Hamza bin Laden (left as a child) is the son of deceased former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (right) who is believed to have groomed him to take over the terror group
At 15, the Egyptian spearheaded his own militant group, Jamaat al-Jihad, that championed large-scale attacks and the murder of civilians.
As it grew, he later merged it with Al-Qaeda in the 1990s, bringing this focus on indiscriminate killing to the terrorist group.
The 71-year-old was on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list, having declared the US ‘the far enemy’, with a $25 million reward for information leading directly to him.
The surgeon led a terrorist lab developing biological weapons and was the force behind Al-Qaeda’s ambition to gain nuclear weapons.
‘To kill Americans and their allies — civilian and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in every country in which it is possible to do it, Al-Zawahiri wrote in a 1998 manifesto.
Three years later, he helped plan the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Al-Zawahiri was planned follow-on attacks across the US, and started a biological weapons program in Afghanistan. He sent group disciples out to find lethal strains of anthrax and scientists that would engage with his plans.
However, the Egyptian abandoned the biological weapons laboratory after a US-backed military effort forced Taliban allies of Al-Qaeda out of power in Afghanistan.
It comes after a top ISIS official was assassinated by the United States early in July when he and his deputy were hit by an American drone strike in northwest Syria.
The strike killed senior ISIS leader Maher al-Agal, US officials said, taking credit for the daytime attack in the northern village of Khaltan in the Syrian countryside.
Al-Agal – one of the top five leaders in the terrorist group – was riding a motorbike in the village when he was targeted by the American missile, which killed him instantly.
Another senior ISIS official was also hit by the attack, officials said, but survived. The official, who was not named, was reportedly wounded.
Al-Agal’s body, which was badly burned and mutilated in the attack, was transported to an Idlib hospital.
The attack took place in the Jenderies district in Afrin – an area northwest of Aleppo, near the country’s shared border with Turkey.
The war-torn region has been under occupation by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) since March 2018.
The strike killed senior ISIS leader Maher al-Agal taking credit for the attack in the northern village of Khaltan in the Syrian countryside. Pictured are Syrian Civil Defence officials surveying the site
The attack took place in the Jenderies district in Afrin – an area northwest of Aleppo, near the country’s shared border with Turkey. The region has become a haven for hundreds of ISIS terrorists and leaders in recent years, as the country continues to face a civil war