Yesterday’s Twitter feed went ablaze with news from Cairo that Sayf al-Adel had been captured. Many might remember Adel’s spike in the press following Bin Laden’s death as he was named the “Interim Emir”.
Well, Egyptian authorities captured instead Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi – a man who for decades has been confused with Adel. I saw one unconfirmed reference stating Makkawi actually returned to Egypt to prove he was not in fact Sayf al-Adel. For clarification on this debate, I again refer those interested to review the definitive post on Sayf al-Adel by Vahid Brown at this link. Vahid brought up this debate nearly 5 years ago in some research he was doing and provides clarity in this quote from May 2011:
Secondly, Sayf al-’Adl is not Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi. Colonel Makkawi is ten years older than Sayf and a number of insiders who knew both men in Afghanistan – including Abu Jandal, Noman Benotman, Abu’l-Walid al-Masri and Yasir al-Sirri – have confirmed numerous times over the years that they are two different people. Both were officers in the Egyptian military; Sayf was a paratrooper and colonel in the Egyptian special forces before his 1987 arrest. Both fought at the infamous battle of Jalalabad in 1989, and around that time Sayf joined Bin Laden’s group and Makkawi remained with Zawahiri’s EIJ, though in the early 1990s he had a falling out with Zawahiri and quit the group. Sayf himself, at the end of the fifth letter in his most recent batch of communications posted on Abu’l-Walid’s blog, also emphatically states that Colonel Makkawi and Sayf are two different people. The one photo we have and which has become ubiquitous in the press lately is indeed of Sayf, not Makkawi, though since that photo was taken Sayf was injured in his right eye. It is surprising that the Makkawi-Sayf confusion persists, given that Muhammad al-Shafi’i drew attention to this case of mistaken identity seven years ago.
Three points in closing.
- It’s nice to know the media, who routinely bashes the TSA for having name confusion on the “No-Fly List”, has just as much trouble confirming identities as those they criticize.
- We should all be focusing more intently on the actions of Adel. As posted here many months back, the al Qaeda operators, not the Internet propagandists, will be the ones to successfully reinvigorate al Qaeda after a particularly dark period. There’s little coverage of Adel in CT punditry because he doesn’t broadcast himself much and appears to prefer doing more than talking. My take: worry more about the terrorists you can’t see than the terrorists you can see.
- I’m also quite a bit interested in Adel because he appears to maybe be a supporter of crowdsourcing concepts.