3. New al Qaeda Commander for Saudi Arabia
The close doctrinal weave of al Qaeda’s operational fabric was apparent this week when its top echelon decided to appoint Saudi-born Abdel Aziz Al-Mokran chief of operations in the Arabian Peninsula in place of the Yemeni Abu Hazim al-Shair, also known as Khaled Ali Haj, who was killed in the al Nasseem neighborhood of eastern Riyadh in an exchange of fire with Saudi security forces Monday, March 15.
Al Shair and Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed al-Mezeini were shot dead in their vehicle when they refused to stop for a spot identification check. Weapons and $137,000 in cash were found with their bodies.
Senior appointments in al Qaeda are subject to reciprocal oaths of loyalty by all members of the leadership. Al Akram is one of the organization’s veterans, recruited at the age of 17. In the early eighties he fought in Afghanistan; in 1993 he took part in the infamous Mogadishu battle between US elite units and local rebels backed by al Qaeda forces. Then came his undercover period from 1996 to 2000, when al Akram lived in Spain and ran al Qaeda’s weapons and explosives smuggling route from Spain to Morocco and Algeria. In this capacity, he must have know the leading lights of the Moroccan network such as Dr. Abu Hafiza and most of the Hamburg cell, including Mohammed Atta and the 15 Saudis who crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center’s towers.
In a sense, al-Mokran’s appointment to lead al Qaeda’s operation in the Arabian Peninsula closes a circle between the 9/11 and the Madrid atrocities. The ends of this circle should have been prevented from coming together long before 2004 by the Western global war on terror. Because they were not, President George W. Bush has lost his Spanish ally and Western nations, Italy, Britain and possibly Israel too, are menaced with further terrorist assaults and the al Qaeda spring offensive yet to come.