Following the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a US air strike in the Afghan capital, Kabul, speculation arose that he would be succeeded in the leadership of the organization by his Egyptian citizen, “Saif al-Adl al-Masry”, a veteran of the organization.
And Mohamed Salah El-Din Zeidan, known as “Saif al-Adl al-Masry,” was born in Menoufia Governorate in Egypt, while there is a conflict in the date of his birth, as some sources say that he was born in 1960 and others say that he was born in 1963.
During his adolescence, Saif al-Adl visited the “Fajr al-Islam” mosque in Ishbeen al-Koum and adopted extremist ideas during that stage, but the circumstances surrounding his affiliation with the Egyptian “Islamic Jihad Movement” are still ambiguous.
In the mid-1980s, Saf al-Adl reached the rank of colonel in the Egyptian Special Forces and was active in the ranks of extremist Islamic groups opposed to the rule of the late Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
On May 6, 1987, the Egyptian Minister of Interior, Hassan Abu Pasha, was subjected to an assassination attempt. The Egyptian authorities launched a massive campaign of arrests, during which six thousand extremists were arrested, including Saif al-Adl. He was released due to insufficient evidence against him, but he was discharged from the army.
He soon left Egypt for Saudi Arabia and from there to Pakistan, where he joined the Arab Afghans led by Osama bin Laden.
Although Saif al-Adl does not belong to the generation of the founders of al-Qaeda (it was established in August/August 1988), but it is believed that he played an important role in building the organization and enhancing its capabilities and military capabilities.
Saif al-Adl joined the organization in 1989, and his joining al-Qaeda was a great gain for it because of his invaluable military capabilities and experience.
At first, he took over the training of fighters in the camps that were run by the organization in Afghanistan, including the “Jihad Wal” camp. Among the courses he supervised was training fighters on kidnappings and assassinations.
Saif Al-Adl also laid the foundations for evaluating the objectives of the organization’s operations and collecting security information about them, which strengthened his capabilities at the operational level.
Thanks to Saif al-Adel’s military capabilities and qualifications, he quickly climbed into the al-Qaeda hierarchy, as he held the position of head of the Security Committee in the mid-1990s, and played an important role in establishing al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia.
In 1990, Saif al-Adl met Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had just been released from Jordanian prisons for his role in the attempted assassination of an American diplomat in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The meeting came on the recommendation of Abu Qatada the Palestinian, who was residing in Britain. Saif al-Adl soon realized that he had much in common with al-Zarqawi.
It is to Saif al-Adel’s credit for persuading Osama bin Laden to provide financial assistance to al-Zarqawi’s group to set up a training camp in the Afghan province of Herat, near the Iranian border.
The camp played a major role in facilitating the movement of jihadists to and from Afghanistan via Iran, after the Pakistani government began persecuting the “Arab Afghans” who were active on its soil.
Al-Qaeda established two stations in Iran, one in Tehran and the other in the city of Mashhad, to facilitate the travel of its members to and from Afghanistan.
In the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on the United States and prior to the American invasion of Afghanistan, it is believed that Saif al-Adel succeeded in transferring al-Qaeda operatives to Iran through the same routes.
According to the testimony of Khaled al-Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, bin Laden and the military official in the organization, Muhammad Atef (Abu Hafs al-Masri) agreed in the spring of 1999 to carry out the attacks, and Saif al-Adl was informed of the plot in April 2001. According to the US government report on the attacks In September, Saif al-Adl was among a handful of al-Qaeda officials who expressed reservations about the plot because the attacks might threaten the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, they said.
With the launch of the American operations to invade Afghanistan in 2001, Saif al-Adl led al-Qaeda’s efforts to smuggle the organization’s operatives from Afghanistan to Iran, taking advantage of the two stations he established in Iran and the network of safe houses he established there.
After Saif al-Adl settled in Iran, accompanied by a senior al-Qaeda official, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, he reconnected with al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sent al-Qaeda fighters there.
After great American and Saudi pressure on Tehran, Saif al-Adl and Abu Muhammad al-Masri were arrested in 2003, so his role in the organization’s operations and activities declined until he was released in 2015 in a prisoner exchange between the organization and the Iranian side, according to a report by the New York Times in 2015.
Iran denied this altogether and in detail, which was suggested by some analysts due to the bloody conflict between the organization and Iran in Syria at the time.
The US and British intelligence agencies offered financial rewards of 7.5 million pounds and 10 million dollars for information on him for his role in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that left 224 people dead.
Saif al-Adel has been described as one of the most effective al-Qaeda operatives and one of the living leaders from the pre-9/11 era who could take over the organization.
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