Bin Laden picks new terror war chief in strategy switch
Osama bin Laden has appointed a new commander to spearhead al-Qa'ida's offensive against the West.
Known to Western intelligence services by the alias Saif al-Adel, or "Sword of the Just", al-Qa'ida's new chief of international operations is believed to have conceived the wave of planned strikes that set off terrorism alerts across Europe recently, as well as last month's mid-air parcel bomb plot.
American and Pakistani sources have disclosed that al-Adel is running several similar operations as part of a war of attrition to persuade Western public opinion that the war against terrorism is unwinnable. This would clear the road for al-Qa'ida to capture power in fragile states such as Somalia and Yemen.
"His strategy is to stage multiple small terror operations, using the resources of affiliates and allies wherever possible," said a Pakistani expert on al-Qa'ida. And a US official warned that the idea was for "small but often attacks" that would hurt the West more than a "one-off terror spectacular".
In 2005, al-Adel wrote a document claiming that Islamist movements failed because their "actions were mostly random". It called for al-Qa'ida to focus on "the greater objective, which is the establishment of a state".
The new strategy marks the triumph of a minority faction who had opposed the September 11 attacks, arguing that US retaliation against Afghanistan would cost the jihadist movement its only secure base.
In 2002, jihadist internet forums carried a letter purported to have been written by al-Adel, criticising Bin Laden's leadership.
Little was heard of al-Adel, who was held by Iran for several years thereafter.
But in March this year he was released along with Osama bin Laden's daughter and senior al-Qa'ida operatives. Iran swapped the terrorists for a diplomat kidnapped last year.
Little is known about al-Adel. Born in Egypt, was arrested in 1987 with several jihadists.
Egyptian prosecutors claimed his plans included crashing an aircraft into Egypt's parliament, or driving a bomb-laden truck into the building -- both tactics al-Qa'ida later used to devastating effect.
Documents filed by US prosecutors show he served at camps in Afghanistan and Somalia, and participated in several attacks. In 2000, Australian investigators found he had played a key role in a plot to assassinate a Jewish mining magnate.(© Daily Telegraph London)