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New al-Qaida leader knows US well

A suspected al-Qaida operative who lived for more than 15 years in the US has become chief of the terror 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.

world Updated: Aug 06, 2010 22:06 IST

A suspected al-Qaida operative who lived for more than 15 years in the US has become chief of the terror 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 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

That puts him in regular contact with al-Qaida'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 and successor to Mohammed, his former boss.

"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-Qaida 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.