US sanctions senior al Qaeda members operating in Iran


Sa’ad bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden’s son and three other senior al Qaeda members living in Iran have been designated as terrorists by the US Department of the Treasury.

Sa’ad bin Laden, Mustafa Hamid, Muhammad Rab’a al Sayid al Bahtiti, and Ali Saleh Husain have been designated as terrorists under Executive Order 13224. “These three men all serve on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis,” or executive planning council, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

The designation allows the US to freeze their assets, prevent them from using financial institutions, and prosecute them for terrorist activities.

The designation is part of “global efforts to financially isolate al Qaeda,” Stuart Levey, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a Treasury press release. These efforts have “made it difficult for the core leadership to raise funds and sustain itself,” Levy said.

The Treasury designated senior al Qaeda operatives sheltering in Iran in the recent past. Al Qaeda financiers Khalifa Muhammad Turki al Subaiy, Adil Muhammad Mahmud Abd al Khaliq, and Abd al Rahman Muhammad Jaffar ‘Ali were designated in June 2008.

Many al Qaeda operatives fled to Iran after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Iran claims the al Qaeda operatives are in detention, yet the government refuses to extradite the terrorists to their home countries for prosecution. Senior al Qaeda leaders sheltering in Iran include Saif al Adel, al Qaeda’s senior strategic planner; Suleiman Abu Ghaith, one of al Qaeda’s official spokesmen; Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, a senior al Qaeda cleric and operations commander; and Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s son and an operational commander. The leaders are said to be located in safe house run by Iran’s Qods Force in Lavizan and Mashod.

Sa’ad bin Laden is designated as Osama’s heir. He is an operational commander who was involved in the 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Sa’ad made “key decisions for al Qaeda and was part of a small group of al Qaeda members that was involved in managing the terrorist organization from Iran,” according to the US Treasury. “As of September 2008, it was possible that Sa’ad bin Laden was no longer in Iranian custody.”

Mustafa Hamid is described as “a primary interlocutor between al Qaeda and the Government of Iran,” the Treasury release stated. “While living in Iran, Hamid was harbored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which served as Hamid’s point of contact for communications between al Qaeda and Iran.”

Hamid is “al Qaeda’s emir of Iran” and “al Qaeda’s ambassador to Iran,” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “He talks to the highest level in the Iranian government.”

The Treasury provides extensive details about Hamid’s close relationship with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps:

While living in Iran, Hamid was harbored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which served as Hamid’s point of contact for communications between al Qaeda and Iran.

In the mid-1990s, Mustafa Hamid reportedly negotiated a secret relationship between Osama Bin Laden and Iran, allowing many al Qaeda members safe transit through Iran to Afghanistan.

In the late 1990s, Mustafa Hamid passed communications between Osama bin Laden and the Government of Iran. When tensions were high between Iran and Afghanistan, Mustafa Hamid traveled multiple times from Kandahar to Tehran as an intermediary for the Taliban.

In late 2001, Mustafa Hamid was in Tehran delivering messages from the Taliban to the Government of Iran. Hamid also negotiated on behalf of al Qaeda in an attempt to relocate al Qaeda families to Iran. As part of this effort, senior al Qaeda member Abu Hafs the Mauritanian traveled with Hamid and two IRGC members to Tehran for meetings. Beginning in late 2001, the family of a senior al Qaeda military commander lived with Mustafa Hamid’s family in Iran. Separately, in 2002 Mustafa Hamid facilitated contacts between the IRGC and another senior al Qaeda military commander. In mid-2003, Mustafa Hamid was arrested in Iran along with other al Qaeda members and associates.

Hamid is the father-in-law of Saif al Adel and ran a terrorist camp near Jalalabad during the rule of the Taliban.

Muhammad Rab’a al Sayid al Bahtiti, who also goes by the alias Abu Dujana al Masri, is a son-in-law and trusted aide to Ayman al Zawahiri as well as a senior leader the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Bahtiti “arranged housing on behalf of al Qaeda” members fleeing Afghanistan to Iran. He “served on an al Qaeda military committee and provided military training that included urban warfare tactics for al Qaeda members,” the Treasury reported. “Bahtiyti drafted training manuals for al Qaeda as well as a book on security that was used as a template for al Qaeda’s surveillance operations.”

Ali Saleh Husain, who also goes by the alias Abu Dhahak al Yemeni, is a senior al Qaeda operative that provided logistical assistance to al Qaeda’s affiliated groups. Husain, who is close to bin Laden, “coordinated with Osama bin Laden on the training of fighters in terrorist camps in Afghanistan who were preparing to travel to Chechnya.”

“He is al Qaeda’s point of contact with Fatah al Islam and Jund al Islam,” al Qaeda’s affiliates in Lebanon and Gaza respectively, the senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “He ordered the kidnapping of the FOX News reporters back in 2006,” the official stated.

Husain worked with al Qaeda operational commander Abu Zubaydah to plot attacks against Israel and facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives into Iran after the fall of the Taliban regime. “Husain was responsible for smuggling al Qaeda members and associates via networks in Zahedan, Iran.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Mark - Dallas-Texas! says:

    Great article Bill! It is so obvious the trail always leads back to Iran.

  • Mark E says:

    I am sure the press will be all over this and admit that they don’t have a clue what they are talking about regarding Iran’s sponsorship of Sunni terrorists…

  • anand says:

    Has there been an effort to inform the Najaf Marjeya, the Quom clerical community (Khamenei has many rivals in Quom), the Shia leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Lebanon about it?
    If they could be persuaded that Khamenei really is collaborating with OBL’s son and Al Qaeda, that would spark some fireworks.

  • NS says:

    Mark E,
    Well said !! Hey, the Shia’s and Sunni’s NEVER get together, dont you know ? How could this possibly be happening ?
    It’s amazing that this deep hatred of the US can bring together the radicals in the Muslim world who would normally hate each other… a point that our ” we know the shias and sunnis never get along” know it alls simply are too blind/dumb to see.
    What really puzzles me is this – what took the Government this long ? Is it shackled by its own rules on how/when it categorizes a known and violent enemy of the state as a terrorist ?

  • anand says:

    NS, most don’t believe that Khamenei would risk dealing with AQ. OBL lead the genocide against the Shia of Gilgit Kashmir in 1988 and played an important role in the anti Shia pogrom in Mazar e Sharif in 1998 (that almost lead to an Iranian attack on the Taliban.)
    If irrefutable evidence was made public that Khamenei had worked with OBL and Zawahiri, the Quom clerics and Iranian establishment would remove him from power.
    If Shia clerical leaders in Iraq, Lebanon, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan were persuaded about the validity of this accusation, then the Quom Marjeya would would be persuaded as well.
    Is there a smoking gun against Khamenei?

  • What I don’t understand is why would a shia country like Iran want to help radical Sunni al Qaeda terrorists, like Osama bin Laden and his crew? I do get the fact that they both hate the United States and Iran probably sees al Qaeda as a useful tool in keeping America busy in Afghanistan. But having Sunni extremists in Iran could prove to be a double-edged sword for Tehran. Would al Qaeda ever try to stir up a possible Sunni revolt inside of Iran? I know that probably sounds like a long shot, but why would Tehran really want to take the risk of having these Sunni terrorists stirring up problems within their own country? Do the Iranian mullahs think that have a tight grip on these killers? I wonder (and this is pure speculation on my part) if a third party could actually cut a deal with Iran to have these al Qaeda members sold out and handed over to the United States. Sound far fetched? Well Ronald Reagan publicly stated he would never deal with Iran, yet his administration was involved with the “arms for hostages” deal. Look, this is the Middle East and we’re dealing with people who would probably sell out their own mothers for a dollar. Maybe, just maybe, for the right price, we could somehow cut a deal where Tehran could get rid of their al Qaeda terrorists “guests” by extraditing them to Afghanistan (where we could capture them). Like I said, it sounds far-fetched, but, for the right price, anything is possible in the Middle East.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Common enemy is the answer.
    Both figure that, it they can remove the presence of the great satin (US), that they can always settle up with the lesser problems later.
    The saying that “my enemy’s enemy is my freind” comes from that region.
    Simular to the alliances between Germany and USSR in the period between WWI and WWII. Mutual advantage.
    Both factions have much in common. Their only real dispute, is who takes over after we are gone.
    The common term for that is “Real-politic”…

  • tracy says:

    Six years ago, I learned a saying from a Lebanese Major that explains their “logic.” Me against my brother. Me, my brother against my cousin. Me, my brother, my cousin against foreigners. Not saying thats the answer here, though. I feel its the common enemy/mutual advantage.


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