On 22 July 2022, the US announced that it had killed al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zawahiri had reportedly been given sanctuary in the Afghan capital by the Taliban interior minister and the head of the Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Neither the Taliban, nor al-Qaeda, have officially acknowledged al-Zawahiri’s death. But according to a report from the UN Security Council’s committee responsible for monitoring sanctions on Islamic State and al-Qaeda, citing intelligence supplied by member states, the Iran based Egyptian extremist and longtime al-Qaeda operative, Saif al-Adel, 62, has been chosen to succeed al-Zawahiri.
“Member states’ predominant view is that [Adel] is now the de facto leader of al-Qaida, representing continuity for now. But his leadership cannot be declared because of al-Qaida’s sensitivity to Afghan Taliban concerns not to acknowledge the death of … Zawahiri in Kabul and the fact of … [Adel’s] presence in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said the report.
According to the report, Saif al-Adel has been operating as the “uncontested leader of the group [al-Qaeda] since November and December. Although based in Iran, the report states that “The presence of Zawahiri in central Kabul demonstrated an ongoing and cooperative relationship between al-Qaida and the Taliban.”
And according to the Guardian, despite the Iranian government’s denials, the new al-Qaeda head and several senior members of the group have been living in Iran.
Saif al-Adel, the Guardian reports, is seen a “formidable threat” by the West. He has “proven organisational ability” and commands “wide respect within Islamic extremist circles.”
In August 2018, the US government its reward $5 million to $10 million for information leading to Saif al-Adel’s arrest. The same amount for the Taliban interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani.