The game of terror: Al-Qaeda is spades

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WASHINGTON, September 8, 2013 — The game of terror is complex, involving more terrorist groups than just al-Qaeda, but al-Qaeda remains among the most feared, hated and admired.

Some terrorist groups cooperate with al-Qaeda, while others are sometimes in opposition to it. Keeping track of all the suits and cards in the terrorist deck is a challenge, but also important to understanding the dynamics of global terror. 


SEE RELATED: The game of terror: Al-Shabaab and Taliban are Hearts


The Spades are primarily core members of al-Qaeda, and others who have been with the group since its inception in the 1980s. These men are wanted by the U.S. and other countries, and those who form al-Qaeda’s core still pose the greatest threat to U.S. national security. 

Ace: Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman is an Islamic theologian and the successor of Osama bin Laden as leader of al-Qaeda. He is the former leader of the terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad and he has planned and facilitated terrorist attacks in North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A physician by trade, he was bin Laden’s personal physician. Nicknamed bin Laden’s “lieutenant,” al-Zawahiri has been referred to as the operational and strategic commander since 2009. The U.S. State Department has offered $25 million reward for information leading to his capture, the most for any terrorist at large. 

King: Saif al-Adel

Saif is a former Egyptian military colonel who is a trained expert in explosives. He became a mujahedeen in 1988 and is currently a member of al-Qaeda’s majis al shura (Consultive Council) and its military committee. He was a mastermind behind the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and is believed to have provided military and intelligence training to members of al-Qaeda working in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. Saif is wanted in connection to the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya. 

Queen: Anas al-Liby

Anas al-Liby is a Libyan computer specialist for al-Qaeda who also served as one of bin Laden’s doubles when he traveled. He hid in Iran for over a decade and returned to Libya in 2012 after the fall of the Kaddafi regime. He is accused of providing surveillance for al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad on potential western targets in Africa. He is wanted for his part in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya and there is a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Jack: Adnan el Shukrijumah

Adnan is an American born member of al-Qaeda who is now its Chief of Operations. He is one of several who planned major attacks in the summer/fall of 2004, none of which came to fruition. He was also chosen by Bin Laden to “detonate nuclear bombs simultaneously in several U.S. Cities.” His whereabouts are unknown; however, he is reported to have scouted sites on New York City and around the Panama Canal for potential attacks.

10.  Ali Sayyid Muhamed Mustafa al-Bakri

Ali is a member of the majlis al shira council of al-Qaeda and he is an explosives and chemical weapons expert. He is a former member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad with close ties to Ayman al Zawahiri and Saif al-Adel. He served as an instructor in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and provided recruits with training in chemical weapons and explosives. The State Department believes he is currently training al-Qaeda militants and other extremists. There is a $5 million reward for information on his location. 

9. Hamza bin Laden

He is the son of Osama bin Laden who has been videoed taking part in an assault against Pakistani forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2007 it was reported he had taken on a senior role in the organization. He was implicated in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and was the only person missing during the Abottabad raid on May 2, 2011. Letters found at the compound stated that Hamza was being groomed to be the heir of the al-Qaeda network after Hamza’s brother Saad was killed in 2009.

8. Abdullah al-Janabi

Al-Janabi is the former Sunni chief of the Mujahedeen Shura council in Fallujah, Iraq. He gained power after securing a victory over U.S. and Coalition forces in the first battle of Fallujah after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He commanded the militant forces during the second battle of Fallujah, which he lost to American forces. He escaped capture after the second battle and was rumored to be living in Damascus before the Syrian Civil war began. He is a critic of al-Qaeda and has spoken out against Abu Dua, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. He is considered influential and well connected. He is wanted by both the Americans and the Iraqis.

7. Adnan Rahseed

Adnan is leader of Waziristan based Ansar al Aseer and chief operational commander of a special unit of fidayeen attackers belonging to the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. He is the chief mastermind of the Dera Ismail Khan operation which freed 275 militants from prison in 2013. Rasheed, a former prisoner who escaped in a jailbreak operation on April 15, 2012, is tasked with securing the freedom of imprisoned jihadis inside of Pakistan. Rasheed is also the mastermind of an assassination attempt on Pakistani President Musharraf.

6. Cemil Bayk

Cemil is one of the five founders of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who is still among the top leadership of the PKK. He is believed to be hiding in Iran, where he is in charge of the PKKs relations with the country. He has evaded capture by Turkish authorities and is wanted to stand trial. He is said to have executed as many as 300 of his own men since the 1980s, including 17 wounded PKK militants in an attempt to evade Turkish authorities. 

5. Khalid al-Habib

He is an al-Qaeda leader who oversees al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan’s south east. After the capture of al-Qaeda’s commander of operations in the south west sector, Habib took over the region as well. Pakistani officials claim that he died in a U.S. airstrike in 2006 however they retracted the claim, saying no leaders died in that strike. Habib also oversees al-Qaeda’s internal Afghanistan operations as well as operations in northern Pakistan. 

4. Amin al-Haq

He is an Afghan national and a doctor by profession. Amin is a former security coordinator for bin Laden and served as his personal bodyguard. He was captured but released from a Pakistani prison in 2008 citing lack of evidence.

3. Abu Khalil al-Madani

Little is known about Abu Khalil al-Madani, who was identified as a member of al-Qaeda’s Shura council in a July 2008 video. His name suggests he is Saudi.

2. Abdul Rahman Yasin

Abdul is an American citizen who was responsible for making the bombs used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing attack. He is Iraqi and is the only participant in the first attempt to blow up the World Trade center who was never caught. He was arrested and imprisoned by Iraq since 1994 and has not been heard from since an interview done in 2002. He was never located after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and likely remains at large.

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Next up: al Shabaab in Somalia take the suite of hearts


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Andrew Scarpitta

Andrew Scarpitta is a young, conservative writer who found himself in New York on 9/11 and on Boylston Street, Boston when the Marathon Bombs exploded.  A studen of History and Political Science, Andrew has experience working with WMD and Middle East Politcy for the Department of Defense and a prominent DC Think Tank.  Andrew's future includes a career in intelligence. 

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