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Al-Qaeda’s current leader Ayman Zawahiri is rumoured to be dead, creating a power vacuum for a new terror chief. Intelligence chiefs believe Saif al-Adel could take his place, and is already planning to recruit ISIS fighters – with a merger between the two death cults also possible.
Under al-Adel, the group could become as powerful as they were at the time of the devastating 9/11 attacks – with one source saying he could be more dangerous than Osama Bin Laden.
According to one senior British terrorism expert: “Compared to Zawahiri, he is likely to be a much more effective leader, at least so or more so even than bin Laden.”
Colonel Richard Kemp, whose job was to monitor Saif’s movements for the British Government in the early 2000s, told the Mirror: “He is highly likely to be the new leader as he is hugely respected amongst al-Qaeda but crucially he also respected amongst Islamic State.
“Not only could he be the new boss of al-Qaeda but he could also entice members of ISIS to join al-Qaeda or cause some kind of fusion between the two.
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“There is cooperation between groups like this but Saif is so well-respected that he could cause even greater co-operation or even a merger.
“He’s an intelligent, strategic thinker and al-Qaeda has been in the doldrums under Zawahiri.
“All of this is about leadership and he could reenergise the movement.
“He would know the place to make an impact is not so much in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East but to garner support and reinvigorate the organisation he would look at Europe and the US.”
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He said links with Iran was also a concern, especially for the US.
Iranian influence would be “hugely problematic”, he said, with Tehran keen to punish America without the backlash that would come from a state-organised attack.
He said the UK was also on alert after years of research.
He said: “British intelligence has been aware of this man for many many years now and have been monitoring his movements and activities as far as possible.
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Osama bin Laden
“He could make al-Qaeda a much more effective organisation than it has been for a few years.”
He warned Saif is now “even greater and more dangerous” than previous leaders of the terror group.
Colonel Kemp said: “He was recognised then as being a very significant figure in al-Qaeda, in the top three or five.
“Now he is probably the top one now, with the demise of bin Laden and the potential demise of Zawahiri, his importance is even greater and more dangerous.
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“Compared to Zawahiri he is likely to be a much more effective leader, at least so or more so even than bin Laden.”
British and American intelligence services have been monitoring Saif’s movements for years.
It is believed Saif has been involved in every Al-Qaeda attack launched in the last three decades.
Former FBI counter-terror expert Ali Soufan wrote Saif may be the “third Emir of Al-Qaeda”.
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He said: “Saif’s revered status with the movement as well as his deep experience as a military intelligence and security leader and terrorist planner make him a potentially dangerous emir.”
Saif has a £7.5million US bounty on his head, following the 1998 US embassy bombings In Nairobi and Dar es Saleem, which left 224 dead.
The new chief headed bin Laden’s personal “Blach Guard” close protection unit in Afghanistan.
One person described him as cold-hearted and was “the least affected by the deaths of innocent civilians”.
It is believed Saif introduced Islamic State founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and 9-11 plotter Khaled Sheikh Mohammed to bin Laden.
He was also involved in the 1993 Black Hawk Down battle in Somalia.