Noman Benotman, named as a “former associate” of Osama bin Laden and now an analyst with the UK’s Quilliam Foundation think tank, said May16 that an Egyptian veteran militant is acting as an interim operational leader of al-Qaeda pending the expected appointment of deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahri as bin Laden’s successor. Benotman named the interim leader as Saif al-Adel, saying he has been appointed al-Qaeda’s “caretaker” while the organization collects pledges of loyalty to Zawahri. US prosecutors say Adel helped plan the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings (for which he is wanted by the FBI) and established al-Qaeda training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan in the 1990s. A former Egyptian military officer, al-Adel was once a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militant organization that has since broken with al-Qaeda. (Reuters, CNN, May 17)
Reports on the naming of al-Adel have generally not recalled the spate of (dubious) claims five years ago that he was being backed by Iran.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria will meet in Bamako on May 20 to discuss common efforts to combat al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The meeting will “tackle questions of security in the Sahel where AQIM is one of the threats,” said Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, Mali’s foreign minister. AQIM has been active in all of the four countries, which have established a joint military base in southern Algeria to secure the region from the militant network. AQIM is holding four French citizens kidnapped in Niger in September 2010 as well as an Italian kidnaped in southern Algeria in February. (AFP, May 17)