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March 25, 2023

Egypt arrests al Qaeda leader

– Investigators in Egypt arrested an al Qaeda leader on Wednesday, authorities and state media reported, although there is doubt about the man’s identity.Alaa Mahmoud, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said authorities in Cairo arrested Mohamed Mohamed Ibrahim Makkawi. Authorities think that Makkawi could be the alias for a top al Qaeda leader named Saif al-Adel, CNN informs.Al-Adel is the man who briefly led al Qaeda and was indicted for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. If Makkawi is al-Adel, the arrest would represent a major blow to al Qaeda, which already is reeling from the death of Osama bin Laden and the capture or killing of other senior leaders.The man was arrested Wednesday at Cairo’s airport on an Emirates Airlines flight from Pakistan, Mahmoud said. He has been wanted on charges of terrorism and conspiring to topple the regime, he said. The United States has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture or conviction of al-Adel.An Egyptian citizen, al-Adel was indicted for his alleged role in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, according to the U.S. State Department. The bombings killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 others.Al-Adel faces charges including conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens; conspiracy to destroy U.S. buildings and property; and conspiracy to destroy U.S. national defense utilities.A former Egyptian army lieutenant and longtime Islamist, al-Adel was appointed the interim leader of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s death. Ayman al-Zawahiri eventually took the helm of the organization.Omar Ashour, director of Middle East Studies at the British-based Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, said there could be confusion about the arrested man’s actual identity because a man named Makkawi served as an Egyptian army officer, as did al-Adel, and has ties to al Qaeda. Mohamed Abdel Rahman, a former jihadist, told CNN he knows both men. He fought alongside Makkawi in 1989 in Afghanistan, he said. Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, notes that while there is uncertainty about the man’s identity, “whoever has been arrested at Cairo Airport has played some kind of role in al Qaeda.” He said al-Adel is the military commander of al Qaeda and has been involved with the group since it was founded in the 1980s. He said the U.S. government would be eager to talk to him. He’d be “gold mine” of information about al Qaeda activities.

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