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‘A Lecture on Kidnappings’ by Saif al-Adel

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Saif al-Adel (literally: “Sword of Justice”) is a pseudonym for Muhammad bin Salah al-Din Zidan, an Egyptian strategist belonging to the generation of the founders of Al-Qaeda. Zidan was responsible for bin Laden’s security, he served as the organization’s explosives expert and he was involved in, among other things, planning the terrorist attacks at the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Zidan’s location in recent years remains unknown, although it is widely assumed that he was under house arrest in Iran, from which he was finally released – as reported – in September 2015.

The lecture, which is summarized below, appeared in a nearly 40-page document dating back to November 2000 but was published for the first time in February 2017 on jihadist Web forums and social networks. Despite its age, the issue of abduction remains relevant for Al-Qaeda and the timing of the document’s publication – in Arabic and English simultaneously – attests to the emphasis the organization still places today on kidnappings as a means of exerting pressure to release prisoners (and, therefore, Saif al-Adel himself dedicates his lecture to jihad fighters languishing in prisons). It should be noted that the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has addressed the issue of kidnappings more than once and encouraged the capture of Western hostages in order to release them in exchange for jailed jihadists (for example, in his recorded speeches that were published in July 2017 and in April 2014). In addition, it is worth recalling that Al-Qaeda carried out several kidnappings over the years in various arenas, including: Mali, Burkina Faso and Yemen.


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