Six new masters of terror run Al-Qaeda

US intelligence says the men have specific roles assigned to them and run the network in a decentralised fashion.

With Osama bin Laden and his top commanders either dead or in hiding, the job of wreaking havoc on the world has been passed on to a new batch of six masters of terror who will plan future bombings and attacks.

According to United States intelligence, one of the six men who have taken over the running of Osama’s Al-Qaeda network is Indonesian fugitive and Jemaah Islamiah leader Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali.

Hambali is linked to the vicious bombing in Bali on Oct 12 which killed close to 200 people. He is also said to be the mastermind of a conspiracy to bomb US targets and embassies in Singapore and countries in the region.

The new masters of terror are said to be running Al-Qaeda’s military and financial network like a corporate management team, with specific roles assigned to each of them.

For example, Hambali is the group’s ‘regional director’ and is charged with terrorising South-east Asia.

The other key Al-Qaeda members are financial controller Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, military commander Saif al-Adel, and terrorism trainers and coordinators Abu Musab Zarqawi, Tawfiq Atash and Rahim al-Nashri.

Indonesian intelligence sources told The Straits Times: ‘It is very clear that Hambali is the most senior operative in South-east Asia with terrorist links to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.’

The US alert on the new groups proves that the Al-Qaeda network is becoming increasingly decentralised.

The Washington Post had said the nucleus of the group has worked together for years.

Some of the six crossed paths while training Somali militiamen who killed 18 US Army Rangers in Mogadishu in October 1993, setting up the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and plotting the October 2000 suicide ramming of the USS Cole in a port in Yemen.

While its leadership prior to Sept 11 last year centred on a ruling council – the shura – which vetted plans and made major financial decisions, the new leaders do not meet and are stationed around Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula and South-east Asia.

This is what makes the group more dangerous as they do not need centralised command and control.

While Ayman Zawahiri, Osama’s longtime top aide, is still viewed as the network’s official deputy commander, his months on the run appear to have made it impossible for him to run the network. A senior US official said: ‘As Osama fled his Afghanistan stronghold, he told his people to go out, raise your own money, carry out your own attacks … You don’t need approval from headquarters any more’.’


Six terrorist leaders have been named by the US as helping to run the global Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Abu Musab Zarqawi

Operational planner, Jordanian.
An expert in the use of poisons and toxins, he is wanted in connection with a plot to bomb a hotel in Jordan. Whereabouts are unknown.

Rahim al-Nashri

Operational coordinator, Yemeni
He helped in the attack of USS Cole and also the Strait of Gibraltar plot. Said to be hiding in Yemen.

Tawfiq Atash
Operational planner. Saudi or Yemeni
Despite being one-legged, he has helped to train the group that plotted suicide attacks in the Strait of Gibraltar. He also helped to plan the attacks on USS Cole and the Africa bombings. Said to be hiding in Pakistan.

Saif al-Adel (above)

Military Commander, Egyptian
One of the pioneering Al-Qaeda members, he was trained by the Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah. Said to have orchestrated some of the group’s deadliest attacks, including the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. A key coordinator of the October, 2000, attack on the USS Cole. Said to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (left)

Financial Ofcer, Egyptian
He is Al-Qaeda’s treasurer who use diamonds to launder the network’s funds. In 1998, he helped Al-Qaeda operatives to enter Africa to bomb the US embassies there. Believed to be in Pakistan Afghanistan border region.

Riduan Isamuddin or Hambali (above)

Regional Director, Indonesian
He helps Al-Qaeda to plot attacks in Southeast Asia. The Jemaah Islamiah leader is the alleged mastermind of the Bali attack, as well as foiled attempts to attack various embassies and US targets in the region, including Singapore. Said to be hiding in Indonesia.

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