Friday, October 24, 2008

Sa'ad bin Laden Returns to Pakistan

Osama bin Laden's son and heir apparent, Sa'ad bin Laden, has returned to Pakistan from his safe haven in Iran, according to messages posted on a Qaeda jihad Web forum known as al-Hesbah.

An organization that tracks and translates discussions on such forums, the SITE Institute, provided its subscribers with a summary of messages describing what it said was an escape by Sa'ad bin Laden from an Iranian prison. American counterterrorism officials, however, have considered him to be under a permissive version of house arrest since the American invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001.

The move of Sa'ad bin Laden to Pakistan tracks with the movements of other senior jihadists to the country since Al Qaeda re-established a safe haven in the 10,500-square-mile area that comprises the provinces along the border with Afghanistan.

It also could signal a new phase of Iran's relationship with Al Qaeda. For the last year, public messages from the terrorist organization's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, have accused Iran of collaborating with America in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Leaders of the Iraqi tribal uprising against Al Qaeda, however, have said Iran has collaborated with their foes.

While Al Qaeda, a Sunni Salafist organization, regards the Shiite theocracy of Iran as an apostate form of Islam, the two sides in the past have worked together through Iran's Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian army. In 2001, following the American invasion of Afghanistan, most of Al Qaeda's leadership fled to Pakistan. But others, including Sa'ad bin Laden and Saif al-Adel, fled to eastern Iran.

Read it all here.

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