Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri

Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri (Arabic: أبو عبيدة البنشيري‎; May 1950 – 21 May 1996) was the nom de guerre[1] of Ali Amin al-Rashidi (علي أمين الرشيدي), one of the "most capable and popular leaders"[2] of al-Qaeda.[3][4][5]

When he drowned in a ferry accident on Lake Victoria in 1996, he was the head of al-Qaeda's African presence and second in command of the whole organization, below Osama bin Laden.


It is as if 100 years were added to my life when I came to Afghanistan

— Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri[6]

Al-Banshiri was born in May 1950 in Cairo, and served as a policeman in Egypt before joining the anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan,[5] fighting alongside Ahmed Shah Massoud.[7]

His brother had participated in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat. Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, introduced al-Banshiri to Osama Bin Laden, who was so favorably impressed that he made al-Banshiri military commander of the Afghan Arabs. Al-Bashiri's second in command was Mohammed Atef.[8] He was shot in the leg during the 1987 Battle of Jaji.[9]

While still in Afghanistan, in August 1988, he attended the founding meeting of al-Qaeda, along with bin Laden, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, and others.[10]

While in Kenya and Tanzania he was known by the aliases Adel Habib, Karim, and Jalal.[1] He married a Kenyan woman and set up a business in Nairobi importing automobiles from the United Arab Emirates.[11]

At some point al-Banshiri acquired either Dutch citizenship[5] or forged Dutch papers.[1] Prior to 1996, al-Bashiri, Mohammed Atef and Yaseen al-Iraqi aided Enaam Arnaout in purchasing AK-47s and mortar rounds from a Pashtun tribesman named Hajjji Ayoub, and they were subsequently delivered in large trucks to the Jawr and Jihad Wahl training camps.[12]


When the news broke that the ferry MV Bukoba had sunk in Lake Victoria, al-Qaeda sent Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Wadih el-Hage to the scene, to verify that al-Banshiri had drowned, and had not been murdered.[13]

Al-Banshiri was succeeded as al-Qaeda's "military" commander by another Egyptian ex-policeman, Mohammed Atef, who had been considered his inseparable friend. Al-Banshiri's senior role in East Africa was taken over, at least in part, by Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah.[1]

A poem entitled "Tears in the Eyes of Time" was written about al-Banshiri, commemorating him among the greatest of the "fallen mujahideen". al-Zawahiri recited the poem in his January 2006 internet broadcast.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d Tactical Deception and Strategic Surprise in al-Qai’da’s Operations Archived February 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Richard H. Shultz and Ruth Margolies Beitler; (other sources agree on his real name)
  2. ^ 9/11 Commission, "Final Report", p. 65
  3. ^ Indictment of Enaam Arnaout Archived 2007-06-30 at the Wayback Machine in 2002, archive at the US Department of Justice; describes the founding of al-Qaeda
  4. ^ Al-Qaeda gains first members, GlobalSecurity.org
  5. ^ a b c Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, GlobalSecurity.org
  6. ^ Mansfield, Laura. "His Own Words", p. 27
  7. ^ Burke, Jason. "al-Qaeda, the true story of radical Islam", p. 106
  8. ^ Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Vintage, 2006, ISBN 978-1-4000-3084-2, p. 147
  9. ^ Bergen, Peter, "The Osama bin Laden I Know', 2006.
  10. ^ Global Security database on the founding of al-Qaeda
  11. ^ Benjamin, Daniel & Steven Simon. "The Age of Sacred Terror", 2002. pp. 130
  12. ^ Fitzgerald, Patrick J. United States of America v. Enaam M. Arnaout, "Governments Evidentiary Proffer Supporting the Admissibility of Co-Conspirator Statements", before Hon. Suzanne B. Conlon
  13. ^ Transcript of testimony Archived 2007-05-10 at the Wayback Machine in the trial of El Hage and others
  14. ^ Atwan, Abdel Bari. "The Secret History of al-Qaeda", p. 225

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