Arrested Islamist mistaken for former al-Qaida leader at Cairo airport

THERE were doubts early today over reports that senior al-Qa`ida operative Saif al-Adel, who briefly took over the terrorist network`s leadership after Osama bin Laden`s death, had been arrested at Cairo airport.

Egyptian security officials said the man they arrested at Cairo airport believing him to be Adel is an Egyptian Islamist wanted in his homeland not an al-Qa`ida operative.

"He is wanted for involvement with the Al-Jihad (group). He is not Saif al-Adel," said a source at the National Security apparatus.

Following his arrest, the man was heard by reporters at the airport denying that he was Adel. Airport officials said his date of birth, 1952, and his full name matched those of the wanted man.

Officials and state media earlier said the man was Adel, who is on the FBI`s most wanted list with a $US5 million $4.6m) reward for his capture.

Security officials did not say why the Egyptian flew to Cairo.

He was arrested after presenting a travel document at customs and taken into custody by the national security apparatus.

An airport official said he arrived on an Emirates Airline flight from Pakistan with a stop over in Dubai.

Adel, also known as Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi and Ibrahim Madani, is wanted by the FBI over the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. He has also been linked also to the 2002 killing of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

The former special forces colonel was named al-Qa`ida interim leader after the death last May of bin Laden at the hands of US Navy SEALS during a raid on his compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

Bin Laden`s long-time deputy and presumed successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, another Egyptian, was appointed leader in June.

Following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush administration said Adel had sought refuge in Iran with Saad bin Laden, a son of the late al-Qa`ida leader.

While allegedly held under house arrest by the Revolutionary Guard, Iran never acknowledged Adel and Saad bin Laden`s presence.

Adel is related by marriage to Australian Rabiah Hutchinson, a long-time target of ASIO.

He is the son-in-law of a former al-Qa`ida military adviser, Mustafa Hamid. In 2001, Hamid married Ms Hutchinson, who at the time was living in Afghanistan and working with the Taliban on health projects.

She was asked by Zawahiri to establish a women`s hospital for al-Qa`ida in Kabul, but the project was aborted after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent US bombing of Afghanistan. In the aftermath, Hamid and Ms Hutchinson escaped separately into neighbouring Iran, where they were detained under house arrest by Iranian security police. The couple separated and Ms Hutchinson returned to Australia in 2003.

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