Al Qaeda’s veteran leaders
September 9, 2021 - Twenty years after the devastating Al Qaeda attacks on the United States that killed 2,977 people, one of Al Qaeda’s veteran leaders has been welcomed back into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Amin al Haq, an Afghan national and former head of the Black Guard responsible for Osama bin Laden’s protection, was filmed on August 31 in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. The images suggest that Al Qaeda commanders are welcome once again in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Dr al Haq served as bin Laden’s security chief during the 2002 battle at Tora Bora in Nangarhar. Al Haq helped the Al Qaeda leader and other senior commanders escape the U.S.-led Operation Anaconda assault on the cave complex. Bin Laden and al Haq fled to Waziristan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
Other terrorist leaders include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani national who is Al Qaeda’s “principal architect of the 9/11 attacks,” according to the 9/11 Commission.
After being captured in March 2003 by the CIA and Pakistan’s secret police in Rawalpindi, Mohammed confessed to involvement in the 2001 attacks, the 1993 bombing of the. World Trade Center and the killing of journalist Daniel Pearl. He is currently awaiting trial, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Abu Muhammad al-Masri, an Egyptian national and Al Qaeda’s third in command, was shot dead in Tehran on August 7, 2020, the anniversary of the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people. The assassination is believed to have been carried out by Israel at the behest of the U.S.
Al-Masri trained Somali militants to use Soviet rocket-propelled grenades to shoot down two American Black Hawk helicopters in Mogadishu in 1993. The so-called Black Hawk Down attacks resulted in 18 American deaths. They led to U.S. President Bill Clinton withdrawing U.S. forces from Somalia.
Saif al-Adel is another Egyptian national and Al Qaeda’s fourth in command. The former commando and explosives expert also played a central role in the Black Hawk incident, the U.S. embassy bombings and the suicide attack on the USS Cole.
Al-Adel remains at large, with many analysts pointing to him as Al Qaeda’s next leader.