Egyptian militant Saif al-Adel reportedly has taken over as an interim operational leader of Al Qaeda until the terror group appoints Usama bin Laden’s permanent successor after the U.S. Navy SEALs' deadly raid on bin Laden's Pakistan.
Noman Benotman, an analyst with the Quilliam Foundation think tank and a former associate of bin Laden, told Reuters of the promotion Tuesday. Al-Adel will remain as Al Qaeda's operational leader while the organization collects pledges to appoint Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's top deputy, as Al Qaeda's new leader – a move that is expected.
Benotman cited contacts in jihadist circles as his sources, but the report could not be independently confirmed.
"This role that he has assumed is not as overall leader, but he is in charge in operational and military terms," he told Reuters.
U.S. prosecutors say Al-Adel helped coordinate the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Al-Adel also served as the head of the military committee of Al Qaeda following the death of Mohammed Atef in late 2001, making him the commander over Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
He has a longstanding working relation with Iran, going back the early 1990s, when he went from Sudan to Lebanon to be trained by Hezbollah in improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Al-Adel returned to Sudan and Afghanistan in the 1990s to set up training camps for Al Qaeda.
Al-Adel was the coordinator of the May 2003 attacks in Saudi Arabia and probably Morocco. He was captured, but in March 2009 he was released in exchange for an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped in the tribal areas of Pakistan two years earlier.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.