Doomsday Scenario: Iran Is Training Bin Laden's Successor

[Telegraph-UK] Con Coughlin - According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies, the Iranians are training senior al-Qaeda operatives in Teheran to take over the organization when bin Laden is no longer leader. Bin Laden, 49, who is known to suffer from kidney problems that require regular dialysis, has not appeared on videotape for more than two years. Even if he is still alive, intelligence officials are working on the assumption that his ability to control the organization has been severely diminished, and that most of the day-to-day running is being undertaken by Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's Egyptian-born number two. Western intelligence officials now believe that Iran is trying to cultivate a new generation of al-Qaeda leaders who will be prepared to work closely with Teheran when they eventually take control. The Iranians are particularly keen to promote Saif al-Adel, who is wanted in the U.S. for his role in training several of the September 11 hijackers. Al-Adel, 46, a former colonel in Egypt's special forces, was also involved in the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993 and the truck bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He has, technically, been living under house arrest in Teheran since 2001 with hundreds of other al-Qaeda fighters following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The Iranians are now exerting pressure on al-Qaeda's leadership to make al-Adel the organization's number three, which, given bin Laden's poor state of health, would effectively make him number two and in a strong position to take control of the entire al-Qaeda network. "This is an important power play by the Iranians and the prospect of al-Qaeda and Iran forging a close alliance is truly terrifying," said a senior Western intelligence official. "We are looking at a Doomsday scenario here where al-Qaeda finally fulfils its ultimate goal of acquiring weapons of mass destruction....And unlike other terror groups, al-Qaeda is perfectly willing to use them."

2006-11-15 01:00:00

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