Birthplace: Saudi Arabia
Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Husayn Abu Zubaydah is a Palestinian long believed to be one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants. Experts think Abu Zubaydah became al-Qaeda's chief of military operations after Muhammed Atef was killed in a U.S. bombing raid on Afghanistan in Nov. 2001. Early in 2002, intelligence experts said Abu Zubaydah was reorganizing the far-flung remnants of the al-Qaeda network to plan further terrorist actions. He is suspected of helping plan a wave of incidents that was to have taken place after Sept. 11, 2001, including attacks on the American embassies in Paris and Sarajevo.
Abu Zubaydah has a long history of involvement with al-Qaeda. In 1999, a Jordanian military court sentenced Abu Zubaydah in absentia to death for plotting to attack tourist sites in Jordan around the millennium.
Abu Zubaydah also organized terrorist attacks on the millennium celebrations in the Los Angeles in Dec. 1999, according Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian convicted of involvement in that plan. During his trial Ressam also said Abu Zubaydah directed Afghan terrorist camps and recruitment for al-Qaeda. Ressam indicated that Abu Zubaydah told him to obtain Canadian passports so others could carry out attacks against the U.S.
Assumed to travel widely to work with al-Qaeda terrorist cells, Abu Zubaydah has a light complexion and apparently enjoys considerable success assuming false identities and moving from country to country undetected. He is likely one of the few people who knows the identities of thousands of al-Qaeda soldiers trained in Afghanistan.