Muhammad Abbatay a.k.a. Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi

Muhammad Abbatay, better known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, is Moroccan national and U.S.-designated leader for al-Qaeda. Al-Maghrebi allegedly is an Iran-based key leader, and the longtime director of al-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media arm.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Muhammad Abbatay (‘Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi),” Rewards for Justice, January 12, 2021, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/muhammad_abbatay.html. The U.S. Treasury and U.S. Department of State designated al-Maghrebi as a Specially Designated National (SDN) and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on January 12, 2021.“United States Takes Action to Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida,” U.S. Department of State, January 12, 2021, https://www.state.gov/united-states-takes-action-to-counter-iranian-support-for-al-qaida/; “Counter Terrorism Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 12, 2021, https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/recent-actions/20210112.

The son-in-law of al-Qaeda co-founder, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Maghrebi allegedly left Morocco in 1996 to study software programming in Cologne, Germany. A few years later, in 1999, al-Maghrebi left Germany for Afghanistan to train at the al-Faruq camp near Kandahar before being pulled from training by Khalid Sheikh Muhammad—the head of both al-Qaeda’s External Operations and Media Committee—and was reassigned to work for al-Qaeda’s Media Committee.Rohan Gunaratna & Anders Nielsen, “Al Qaeda in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan and Beyond,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, December 30, 2008, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10576100802291568.

Given al-Maghrebi’s software expertise and computer skills, al-Maghrebi quickly became an asset for the group’s Media Committee and eventually took on the role as director of al-Sahab—al-Qaeda’s media arm. Allegedly, after the fall of Afghanistan in 2001, al-Maghrebi fled to Iran but reportedly relocated to Pakistan in 2003.Rohan Gunaratna & Anders Nielsen, “Al Qaeda in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan and Beyond,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, December 30, 2008, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10576100802291568.

According to documents recovered from the 2011 military operation against Osama bin Laden, al-Maghrebi has been a rising star in al-Qaeda for many years. In 2012, al-Maghrebi began serving as al-Qaeda’s general manager in Afghanistan and Pakistan, before relocating to Iran due to years of international counterterrorism pressure. While in Iran, al-Maghrebi became head of al-Qaeda’s External Communications Office where he supervised and coordinated al-Qaeda’s and al-Qaeda’s activities worldwide.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Muhammad Abbatay (‘Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi),” Rewards for Justice, January 12, 2021, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/muhammad_abbatay.html.

On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Department of State designated al-Maghrebi as an SDGT.“United States Takes Action to Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida,” U.S. Department of State, January 12, 2021, https://www.state.gov/united-states-takes-action-to-counter-iranian-support-for-al-qaida/. The same day, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanction-designated al-Maghrebi as an SDN.“Counter Terrorism Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 12, 2021, https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/recent-actions/20210112. Additionally, the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program announced a reward for up to $7 million for information regarding al-Maghrebi’s location.“United States Takes Action to Counter Iranian Support for al-Qa’ida,” U.S. Department of State, January 12, 2021, https://www.state.gov/united-states-takes-action-to-counter-iranian-support-for-al-qaida/.

On July 31, 2022, a CIA drone struck and killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, Afghanistan.Idrees Ali, “Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in CIA drone strike in Afghanistan - U.S. officials,” Reuters, August 1, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/cia-carried-out-drone-strike-afghanistan-us-officials-say-2022-08-01/; Matthew Lee, Nomaan Merchant, Mike Balsamo, and James Laporta“Biden: Drone strike on al-Qaida leader delivered ‘justice,’” Associated Press, August 1, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/ayman-al-zawahri-al-qaida-terrorism-biden-36e5f10256c9bc9972b252849eda91f2. Following Zawahiri’s death, al-Qaeda scholars have suggested that al-Maghrebi could be a potential successor to lead the terror group given his close relationship to Zawahiri as well as his status within al-Qaeda’s senior leadership.Snigdha Choudhury, “Explained: Who Will Be The Next Al-Qaeda Leader And What Is The Process To Pick New Emir,” India, August 4, 2022, https://www.india.com/explainer/explained-who-will-be-the-next-al-qaeda-leader-and-what-is-the-process-to-pick-new-emir-5552869/.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Al-Qaeda
Type(s) of Organization:
Non-state actor, religious, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Jihadist, pan-Islamist, Qutbist, Salafist, Sunni, takfiri
Position(s):
Director of media

Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks was the deadliest ever on American soil, killing nearly 3,000 people. Since the fall of the Taliban, al-Qaeda has established operations worldwide, including in Syria, the Gulf, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.

  • Designations

United States

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