Al-Ahram Weekly Online   1 - 7 March 2012
Issue No. 1087
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Al-Qaeda cabalism

A case of mistaken identity? Gamal Nkrumah attempts to decipher the person behind a top terrorist named Seif Al-Adl

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News filtered Wednesday morning of the detention at Cairo International Airport of Seif Al-Adl -- an Egyptian national purported to be a leading figure of Al-Qaeda. Seif Al-Adl is the nom de guerre of a former Egyptian army officer who defected to Al-Qaeda in 1994 and rose through the ranks to become second in command after Ayman El-Zahawri who now leads the organisation since the United States assassinated Osama bin Laden.

The National Security Apparatus admitted that the person initially reported as being the head of security apparatus in Al-Qaeda often mistakenly named as Mohamed Ibrahim Mekkawi is not the "real wanted Seif Al-Adl". In other words, this appears to be a classic case of mistaken identity.

As Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, Al-Qaeda had not issued a specific statement on the affair. Meanwhile, Seif Al-Adl who was arrested at the airport protested his innocence as he is currently being investigated by the police.

What is clear is that there are mysterious implications that are bound to unravel in the weeks to come.

The real Seif Al-Adl, the second in command and head of operations in Al-Qaeda is Mohamed Salah, a former Egyptian army officer aged 48. His precise whereabouts are unknown even though he is suspected to be in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. He certainly has not attempted to return to Egypt where presumably he is wanted and perhaps will be extradited to the US where he is also wanted for terrorist activities.

"The man who turned up at Cairo airport yesterday is a disgruntled special elite strike force officer. He was implicated in an incident in 1992 when the then interior minister Zaki Badr discovered that Mohamed Ibrahim Mekkawi lived in an apartment in the same block of flat as the minister and that even though the afore-mentioned officer was a member of the 999 elite force commandos that he was suspect of association with terrorists," Director of the Arab Centre for Research Studies Abdel-Rahim Ali told the Weekly.

The former commandos officer says that he was tortured in Egypt and later in Pakistan precisely because of the case of mistaken identity as intelligence agencies of several nations mistook him for the "real Seif Al-Adl". Others believe that the two men called "Seif Al-Adl" are implicated in Al-Qaeda cabal, the only difference is that one is more senior than the other one -- the man who showed up at Cairo airport is simply a rank-and-file desperado. Whether this is just a make belief story or a truthful account of a wronged officer remains to be seen. For the Egyptian authorities that is the bottom line.

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