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New Al Qaeda leader is former US resident

The FBI provided these undated images of Adnan Shukrijumah, the new chief of Al Qaeda’s global operations. The FBI provided these undated images of Adnan Shukrijumah, the new chief of Al Qaeda’s global operations. (FBI via Associated Press)
By Curt Anderson
Associated Press / August 7, 2010

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MIAMI — A suspected Al Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the United States has become chief of the terrorism network’s global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.

Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9/11 coordinator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, said Brian LeBlanc, a Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent, in an exclusive interview. That puts Shukrijumah in regular contact with Al Qaeda’s senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, LeBlanc said.

Shukrijumah and two other leaders were part of an “external operations council’’ that designed and approved terrorism plots and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in US drone attacks, leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief.

“He’s making operational decisions is the best way to put it,’’ said LeBlanc, the FBI’s lead Shukrijumah investigator. “He’s looking at attacking the US and other Western countries. Basically through attrition, he has become his old boss.’’

The FBI has been searching for Shukrijumah since 2003. He is thought to be the only Al Qaeda leader to have once held permanent US resident status, or a green card.

Shukrijumah was named earlier this year in a federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York’s subway system in 2009. The indictment marked the first criminal charges against Shukrijumah, who previously had been sought as a witness.

Shukrijumah’s mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, said Thursday outside her home in Miramar, Fla., that her son frequently talked about what he considered the excesses of American society — such as alcohol and drug abuse and women wearing skimpy clothes — but that he did not condone violence. She said she has not had contact with her son for several years.

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