The terrorist group al-Qaeda has named Egyptian national Saif al-Adel as its interim leader, pending the formal appointment of a replacement for Osama bin Laden, Taliban and al-Qaeda, news reports and militant sources said Wednesday, dpa reported
Al-Qaeda and Taliban sources said that some other appointments were also made.
Al-Qaeda, which was behind the September 2001 attack on New York, has been headless since its founder and leader, Saudi-born bin Laden, was killed by US special forces in Pakistan on May 2.
The new head, a former colonel in the Egyptian special forces, al-Adel, also known as Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s, CNN reported.
In 2001, he fled to Iran, where he reportedly spent nine years under house arrest, before travelling to Pakistan last year to join al-Qaeda operations there.
An al-Qaeda operative who confirmed the appointment of al-Adil in an SMS sent to German Press Agency dpa on Wednesday, claimed that al-Adil was released by Iran in exchange for its Commercial Attaché Heshmatollah Atharzadeh abducted by militants in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar.
One of Bin Laden's sons was also freed under the deal.
Al-Adil is believed to have been a member of the group's military committee for many years.
He was indicted by the United States for his suspected role in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania, the Israel Nation News reported on its website.
His appointment to caretaker head was probably not made by al-Qaeda's formal shura council, due to practical restrictions on such a meeting, but by a small group of local leaders in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, CNN quoted a former Islamist leader as saying.
Noman Benotman, former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, told the news broadcaster that some elements within the group might object to the appointment of an Egyptian over other candidates from the Arabian Peninsula.
According to al-Qaeda operative who goes only by name Ahmad, al-Adil would be "interim chief for indefinite time while Aiman al-Zawahiri will be the spiritual and ideological leader of the organization." He said some other appointments were also made.
Among them was Mohammad Mustafa al-Yemeni , who would direct operations and Fahad al-Iraqi - would serve as the chief trainer.
Mohammad Nasir al-Wahishi has been appointed as chief of Africa and Arabian peninsula, al-Qaeda source said. A Taliban source however insisted that he had been appointed only as the organization's head in Africa.
Al-Wahishi is believed to be a citizen of Yemen and once served as Osama bin Laden's secretary.
Adnan al-Kayseri will be chief of general affairs, a sort of political post devised to maintain coordination between various departments of the organization. A man named Wajid al-Masiri would be the head of finance.
The al-Qaeda operative said that the decision about the new appointments was made in a meeting of the al-Qaeda shura on May 10 when around 50 important members participated. "It was the second meeting. The first took place on May 5," he added without mentioning the place.
A Taliban source however said that the meeting took place in North Waziristan, one of the seven Pakistan's north-western tribal districts along Afghan border. He refused to give the name of the exact place.
A Pakistani intelligence official covering the region confirmed that "the reports from the area were coming that al-Qaeda had appointed a new chief known by the name of Saif al-Adel."
"But we don't know whether he is in Pakistan or Afghanistan. A lot of activity is taking place there but we are still to check them."