What’s a bigger story, the arrest of a top tier al-Qaeda leader with a $5 million bounty on his head or the fact that he felt post-Arab Spring Egypt was safe enough to travel to?
CAIRO (AP) – Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi was arrested on his arrival at Cairo airport from Pakistan via Dubai and was taken for questioning, security and airport officials said.
Makkawi told reporters he was not the senior al-Qaeda leader known as Saif al-Adel and that he had nothing to do with the terror group since 1989. He said he traveled to Egypt using travel documents issued by the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad.
The U.S. has listed the name Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi as the real name of Saif al-Adel, a pseudonym that means “sword of justice.” But former militants who know both men have previously said they are two different people and the U.S. identification is incorrect.
“I am not the wanted Saif al-Adel,” Makkawi told reporters. “What has been said about me is lies. I never took part in actions against people or installations.”
“I decided to come to Egypt to live in peace and because I am certain of my innocence,” he said. Makkawi is believed to be in his 50s.
Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian, has been indicted by the United States for an alleged role in the Aug. 7, 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people. He is a veteran figure in al-Qaida, believed to have been the head of its military committee. After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, he fled to Iran, where he was reportedly held under house arrest, though it is believed he continued to be active and in recent years he was reportedly allowed to make trips to Pakistan.