Son of Al-Qaeda Leader Is Dead, Group Confirms

Son of Al-Qaeda Leader Is Dead, Group Confirms

Khaled Saleh al-Din Zidane, a senior member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the son of the group’s de facto leader, Saif al-Adel, has died.

The news was announced through AQAP’s official magazine, al-Malahim, which confirmed his death but did not disclose the circumstances.

Khaled, 29, was deeply involved in the group’s operations and strategy, working closely with his father. According to the Long War Journal, Khaled was last operating in Yemen, where he was deployed as al-Adel’s personal representative.

Born in 1995, Khaled played a critical role in recruitment, media, and managing AQAP’s internal strife, inheriting these tasks from his father. He wrote an anti-American article in the magazine titled “By Allah or by Our Hands” and even shared a graph of Yemen’s public debt from 2000 to 2024.

Khaled’s death marks a significant loss for AQAP, one of the most active branches of the diminished terror group. It also deals a huge blow to his father, who is believed to be in Iran.

Saif al-Adel, born Mohammed Salah al-Din Zaidan, is a veteran of the jihadist movement with a long history of involvement in terrorist activities. After joining Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1980s, he later aligned with al-Qaeda and became a key figure in the organization’s operations. He is widely understood to be the de facto leader of Al-Qaeda since Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in 2022 by a U.S. drone strike.

Once a colonel in Egypt’s El-Sa’ka Forces during the 1980s, Saif was expelled by the Egyptian military in 1987 and arrested alongside thousands of Islamists amid allegations of attempting to rebuild the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and planning to topple Hosni Mubarak.

Saif fled Egypt to Saudi Arabia and joined al-Qaeda, leading its newly formed media department. He was involved in the production of Osama Bin Laden’s infamous videos, which quickly found audiences worldwide.

Later, Saif became a member of the Al-Qaeda council, and by 1992, he was part of its military committee, providing military and intelligence training to members of al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, as well as to anti-American Somali tribes.

Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, Saif was given secret asylum in Iran, where he was monitored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). There, he directed al-Qaeda’s human resources in fighting U.S. and coalition forces.

Before Zawahiri’s death, Saif was managing of Al-Qaeda’s field commanders in Somalia, Yemen, and Syria, operating from his communication base in Iran.

A 2023 United Nations report concluded that Saif al-Adel had been named de facto leader of al-Qaeda but had not been formally proclaimed as its emir due to “political sensitivities” of the Taliban government in acknowledging the killing of Zawahiri in Kabul and the “theological and operational” challenges posed by al-Adel’s location in Shia-led Iran.

Saif is suspected of involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people and injured thousands. He is under indictment in the U.S. in connection with those terror attacks and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

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