Saif al-Adel

Saif al-Adel
Saif al-Adel
Native name سيف العدل
Born April 11, 1960/63[1]
Other names Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi
Ibrahim al-Madani[1]
Omar al-Sumali[2]

Saif al-Adel (Arabic: سيف العدل‎) is an Egyptian[3] explosives expert and a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda.

Adel is under indictment[4] for his part in the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa. According to the indictment, Adel is a member of the majlis al shura of al-Qaeda and a member of its military committee, and he provided military and intelligence training to members of al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, and to anti-UN Somali tribes.[4] It is possible that his trainees included the Somalis of the first Battle of Mogadishu.[5] He established the al-Qaeda training facility at Ras Kamboni in Somalia near the Kenyan border.[2]

He was one of the masterminds of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Al Sadat, and left the country in 1988 to join the mujahideen in repelling the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[6] He is then believed to have traveled to southern Lebanon along with Abu Talha al-Sudani, Sayful Islam al-Masri, Abu Ja`far al-Masri, and Abu Salim al-Masri, where he trained alongside Hezbollah Al-Hejaz.[7]

In Khartoum, Adel taught recruited militants how to handle explosives in the unused sections of Al-Damazin Farms.[3]

He is married to the daughter of Mustafa Hamid, and they have five children together.[8]

Along with Saeed al-Masri and Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, he is believed to have opposed the September 11 attacks two months prior to their execution.[9]

He has also been connected with the murder of Daniel Pearl.[10]


Militant connections

Several months before the 1998 embassy bombings, Adel was helping Bin Laden move his followers from Najim Jihad to Tarnak Farms. The group had begrudgingly agreed to care for the troublesome Canadian 16-year old Abdurahman Khadr, since his father was away and his mother couldn't control his drinking, smoking and violent outbursts. However, while in Kabul, Adel was approached by bin Laden and asked to take Abdurahman to the bus station and have him sent back to his family's home.[11]

In approximately 2000, he was living in the Karte Parwan district of Kabul. On the local walkie-talkie communications in the city, he was identified as #1.[11]

On September 9, 2001 Adel was approached by Feroz Ali Abbasi who said he was so impressed by the killing of Ahmed Shah Massoud that he wanted to volunteer for something similar.[12]

The entire crew of the tank escaped. Shrapnel hit Khalid in the head, paralyzing the left side of his body. He recovered after four months, except for a slight effect in his left hand.

—Saif al-Adl describing November 2001 American attack against militant tank near Kandahar[13]

In early November 2001, the Taliban government announced they were bestowing official Afghan citizenship on him, as well as Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Mohammed Atef, and Shaykh Asim Abdulrahman.[14] During the American bombardment of Kandahar, Adel was present and witnessed the deaths of Abu-Ali al-Yafi'i and his wife, Abu-Usamah al-Ta'zi with his wife and two children, the wife of Rayyan al-Ta'zi, the wife of Abu-Usamah al-Kini, and the wife of Al-Barra al-Hijazi who was arrested in Morocco before the Casablanca bombings.[8]

On November 18, Adel was working with Abu-Muhammad al-Abyad, Abd-al-Rahman al-Masri, and Abu-Usamah al-Filastini, Abu-Husayn al-Masri and Faruq al-Suri; all of whom were staying in his empty house with him at night. In the early morning hours of November 19, he woke them up just minutes before the al-Wafa charity building was bombed, phoning friends in the area, he learned that Abdul Wahid had been killed in the explosion.[8] He later learned that Asim al-Yamani from Al Farouq training camp and the elderly Abu-Abd-al-Rahman Al-Abiy had run to the charity's headquarters and begun rescuing survivors and pulling out the dead bodies. The pair had then agreed the area was not safe, and sent their women to the smaller villages, while they used their two cars to try and unpack their house's contents. An American jet bombed the pair, killing al-Yamani and wounding al-Abiy.[8] As it was the third day of Ramadan, the group in Adel's house began to prepare and eat Suhoor, but were interrupted by a cruise missile striking 100 metres away, destroying an empty house belonging to an Afghan Arab family, and a Taliban barracks. They gathered their belongings and quickly left, fearing another strike.[8] Adel went to the hospital, where he visited the wounded al-Abiy, and arranged for him to be transferred to a hospital in Pakistan.[8]

He was told by Abu Ali al-Suri that the American aircraft had machinegunned women leaving the city on the road to Banjway, and assured him that he would send aid. A convoy of 4-6 Corolla Fielders set out to Banjway, followed closely by American helicopters. The Americans attacked the lead vehicle, killing Abu-Ali al-Yafi'i, his wife, four women, and two children - and the second vehicle, killing Suraqah al-Yamani and Hamzah al-Suri. Abu-Ali al-Maliki quickly veered off the road with the third vehicle, turning off his headlights, and drove into the mountains escaping the attack.[8]

Since al-Qaeda's military chief Mohammed Atef was killed in 2001, it has sometimes been said that Adel would be his natural successor in that role.[5][6][15]

In 2004, he published a "terrorist manual" entitled "The Base of the Vanguard", an Arabic pun on the phrases al-Qaeda ("the base") and the Vanguards of Conquest.[16]

Saif al-Adel was a key source in a 2005 book on al-Qaeda's global strategy by journalist Fouad Hussein.[17]

Writings of Saif al-Adel

We say to those who want a quick victory, that this type of war waged by the Mujahideen employs a strategy of the long-breath and the attrition and terrorization of the enemy, and not the holding of territory.

—Saif al-Adel, March 2003.[13]

In February 2006 the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point published a number of declassified documents from the Harmony database, some of which are known or believed to have been written by Saif al-Adel. One is a letter[2] signed "Omar al-Sumali, previously known as Saif al-Adel", about the author's activities in southern Somalia during UNOSOM II (1993–1995). It identifies Ras Kamboni as a suitable site for an al-Qaeda base. It mentions an accomplice of Adel called "Mukhtar". In a letter[18][19] from "‘Abd-al-Halim Adl" to "Mukhtar", dated 13 June 2002, the author strongly criticises the leadership of Osama bin Laden, blaming al-Qaeda's preceding disastrous six months on bin Laden's recklessness and unwillingness to listen to advice.

If someone opposes [bin Ladin], he immediately puts forward another person to render an opinion in his support, clinging to his opinion and totally disregarding those around him...
Perhaps, brother Abu Mattar has warned you that his opinion [of bin Ladin's leadership] has changed a lot since he got out of his previous situation.

The 2002 addressee "Mukhtar" appears to be the commander of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

The East Asia, Europe, America, Horn of Africa, Yemen, Gulf, and Morocco groups have fallen, and Pakistan has almost been drowned in one push. I, not to mention the other individuals who have also moved and fallen, have often advised on this matter. Regrettably, my brother, if you look back, you will find that you are the person solely responsible for all this because you undertook the mission, and during six months, we only lost what we built in years.

In 2004, Adel was also alleged to be the author behind The Al-Battar Military Camp, a manual that advised prospective militants about how to strike easy targets.[20]

On March 11, 2005, Al-Quds Al-Arabi published extracts from Adel's document "Al Quaeda's Strategy to the Year 2020".[21]

In March 2007 the Pentagon posted on the Internet a transcript[22] of part of the hearing into the combatant status of detainee Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Some of the evidence against bin al-Shibh came from a diary of Saif al-Adel:

Sayf al-Adel is a senior al Qaida military commander with a long-term relationship with Usama bin Laden. Sayf al-Adel's role in the organization has been as a trainer, military leader, and key member of Usama bin Laden's security detail.
The diary of Sayf al-Adel was recovered during a raid in Saudi Arabia in 2004. The diary details the Detainee's involvement in the 11 September 2001 terrorist plot and subsequent attack. The Detainee is listed as a "highly professional jihadist" along with "9/11 hijackers", Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah. The diary states that the three were briefed on an operation involving aircraft by Abu Hafs, a senior al Qaida planner.

Current location

Adel has been on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists since its inception in 2001. The State Department's Rewards for Justice Program is offering up to US$5 million for information on his location.[23]

There has been speculation that Adel fled Afghanistan to Iran and was detained under house arrest near Tehran. Later reports indicate that he was released in March 2010 in exchange for the release of Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in November 2008.[24] and made his way to northern Pakistan.[25][26] Although Abu Hafs Al Mauritania was reported killed in a January 2002 American airstrike, it was also suggested he may have fled to Iran with Adel.[27]

As of October, 2010, Der Spiegel reported that Adel was in the Waziristan region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.[28]


  1. ^ a b Saif al-Adel wanted poster, FBI, US Department of Justice
  2. ^ a b c Letter from Adel about Ras Kamboni, translation by the United States Military Academy[dead link]
  3. ^ a b Jamal al-Fadl testimony, United States vs. Osama bin Laden et al., trial transcript, Day 2, February 6, 2001.
  4. ^ a b Copy of indictment USA v. Usama bin Laden et al., Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies[dead link]
  5. ^ a b Who's who in al-Qaeda, BBC News, 19 February 2003
  6. ^ a b Al-Qaeda's new military chief, BBC, 19 December 2001
  7. ^ Hegghammer, Thomas. CTC Sentinel, Deconstructing the myth about al-Qaida and Khobar, February 2008
  8. ^ a b c d e f g World News Connection, Al-Qa'ida member recalls US bombardment, accuses Taliban of betrayal, October 29, 2003
  9. ^ 9/11 Commission, p. 251
  10. ^ "Study ties new al Qaeda chief to murder of journalist Pearl", by Augustine Anthony, May 23, 2011, Reuters
  11. ^ a b Shephard, Michelle (2008). Guantanamo's Child. John Wiley & Sons. 
  12. ^ Bergen, Peter. "The Osama bin Laden I Know", 2006
  13. ^ a b Scehuer, Michael. "Marching Towards Hell", 2008
  14. ^ The Hindu, Taliban grants Osama citizenship, November 9, 2001
  15. ^ Dawoud, Khaled. The Guardian, Mohammed Atef, November 19, 2001 Archived 25 June 2009 at WebCite
  16. ^
  17. ^ The Master Plan, Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 4 September 2006[dead link]
  18. ^ Adel letter to Mukhtar, English translation, at USMA[dead link]
  19. ^ Adel letter to Mukhtar, handwritten Arabic original, at USMA[dead link]
  20. ^ National Post, "Al-Qaeda Urges Attacks On Canadians: Instructions In Manual: Advises Hitting 'Easy Targets That Are Not Protected'", March 31, 2004
  21. ^ Abdel Bari Atwan. "The Secret History of Al Qaeda", p. 221. University of California Press, 2006. ISBN 0-520-24974-7.[dead link]
  22. ^ Verbatim Transcript of Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing for ISN 10013, US Department of Defense
  23. ^ Saif al-Adel wanted poster, Rewards for Justice, US Department of State
  24. ^
  25. ^ Al-Qaida finds safe haven in Iran, MSNBC, 24 June 2005
  26. ^ "Osama Bin Laden: Al-Qaeda releases posthumous message". BBC News. 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-05-19. "Speculation is mounting that al-Qaeda has appointed a former Egyptian army colonel, Saif al-Adel, as temporary leader to replace Bin Laden. Adel was once Bin Laden's security chief, and is suspected of involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa, training the Somali fighters who killed 18 US servicemen in Mogadishu in 1993, and instructing some of the 11 September 2001 hijackers. He fled to Iran from Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in 2001, and was reportedly held under house arrest near Tehran. Reports at the end of last year said he may have been released and made his way to northern Pakistan. Some Western analysts have expressed scepticism over reports of his appointment. Bin Laden's long-time deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, also Egyptian, is thought to be the front-runner for the role." 
  27. ^ Bower, Amanda. TIME, More arrests, new threats in fight against terror, September 9, 2002
  28. ^ "A Top Terrorist Returns to Al-Qaida Fold: Saif al-Adel Back in Waziristan", by Yassin Musharbash, October 25, 2010, Der Spiegel

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