Photo of Al-Qaeda Leaders in Iran Appears Online

Photo of Al-Qaeda Leaders in Iran Appears Online

A photo posted online and confirmed by FDD’s Long War Journal as authentic shows 3 of Al-Qaeda’s top leaders in Tehran.


While the photo proves the leaders in Tehran, it is from 2015, so it will not impact immediate intelligence efforts. However, it does prove a link between Iran and al-Qaeda known throughout the intelligence community. 

Saif al Adel, Abu Muhammad al Masri, and Abu Abu al Khayr al Masri. All of them have been associated with Al-Qaeda for decades and have been known by U.S. intelligence to shelter in Iran. Since July 2011, the U.S. Treasury and State Departments have stated that Iran allows Al-Qaeda to operate within its soil, using it as a base of operations for its leadership and as a key gateway to the rest of the Middle East. 

Saif al Adel is thought by many in the intelligence community to be Ayman al Zawahriri’s likely successor after he was killed by a U.S. drone strike. Adel is a member of the founding generation of Al-Qaeda and was instrumental in the planning of the 1998 embassy bombings, the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, and the suicide attack on the USS Cole. He has also been accused of enacting the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl. Adel was also a mentor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later formed into the Islamic State. 

After Osama Bin Laden’s death, he was the interim leader of Al-Qaeda while they searched for a successor. While his movements are unknown, he is known to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Iran. 

Abu Muhammad al-Masri was one of the original 22 members of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists. He operated training camps in Afghanistan for al-Qaeda and was instrumental in the planning of the 1998 Embassy bombings. In 2000, he was elected to al-Qaeda’s governing council. On August 7th, 2020, on the anniversary of the Embassy Attacks, he was shot to death while driving his car. The hit was reportedly by the Israeli Mossad’s assassination unit. His daughter (and widow to Osama Bin Laden’s son) was also killed in the gunfire. 

Abu Khayr al-Masri was known as the general deputy to Ayman al-Zawahiri. He was released by Iran and moved to Syria, to join al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate. An audio recording purportedly of him claiming that the al-Nusra front had severed all ties with al-Qaeda was released by their media wing. However, al-Masri was killed in a U.S. airstrike by the AGM-114 R9X Hellfire Blade Bomb, which instead of an explosive warhead, uses 6 blades to kill a target without collateral damage. His killing was one of the first known usages of the bomb. Atlas News also has an in-depth report on the bomb’s usage. 

Aftermath of Abu Khayr al-Masri‘s Assassination (Image Credits: Telegraph)

Written by GoodHistory Contributor Alexander Korfiatis

Alexander Korfiatis
Alexander Korfiatis
Saint Louis University Undergraduate Class of 2025. Studying Medical Sciences on the path to become an anesthesiologist assistant. Highly motivated to write about politics, particularly domestic.
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