A very old picture of Saif al-Adel
Interesting article in Spiegel Online that says former al-Qaeda military chief Saif al-Adel, who has spent the last nine years under house arrest in Iran, is now in Waziristan. The article claims that al-Adel, who is Egyptian, was freed by the Iranians in exchange for unnamed Iranian prisoners kidnapped by al-Qaeda. This could include Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped by gunmen in November 2008 and freed following what the BBC referred to as "a complicated intelligence operation" in March this year.
The source for the story is Noman Benotman, a senior analyst at the London-based counter-extremism think tank and an expert on al-Qaida. Until 2002, Benotman was himself a trainer at jihadi military camps in Afghanistan, where he led the Libyan mujahideen. He says his sources on Saif al-Adel are reliable.
If Adel's release is true, this is certainly a worrying development. He is an experienced member of al-Qaeda, even if he has been out of circulation for years. He is thought to have been in Iranian custody since October 2001, when he and other al-Qaeda supporters, including members of Osama bin Laden's family, were caught having crossed into Iran as they fled in front of US and Allied troops.
It has previously been reported that Saad bin Laden, one of the al-Qaeda leader's sons, had also turned up in Pakistan, having also been released by the Iranians from house arrest in 2008. He was reported killed in a US drone strike in 2009, but other reports denied this was true.