Saudi-Owned Al-Arabiya Website: Al-Qaeda, Iran Communicated For Years Via Muslim Brothers

February 19, 2021

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 


On February 13, 2021, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya website published an article claiming that Al-Qaeda and Iran had communicated for years via the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

According to the article, those close to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and to Ayman Al-Zawahiri said that the latter proposed to Iran that he would perpetrate terror attacks in Egypt in exchange for $100 million, but that Iran rejected the offer.

However, Tehran did provide refuge to senior members of the organization during the American invasion of Afghanistan, and senior members of the organization received training in Iran on the use of explosives.[1]

It should be noted that the website, which is owned by Saudi Arabia, is antagonistic to the MB, to Al-Qaeda, and to Iran and routinely publishes defamatory reports about them.

This is another in a series of numerous reports and allegations about connections between the Al-Qaeda organization and Iran. In January, shortly before the end of his term as the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo claimed that Tehran had become the new home base for Al-Qaeda.[2]

For years, there have been reports that senior members of Al-Qaeda were residing in Iran, either in captivity or as guests of the regime, among them Sayf Al-'Adl, Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani the former mufti of Al-Qaeda, and the sons of Osama bin Laden.[3]

Al-Mauritani, who was in Iran from 2003 to 2012 and subsequently severed his connections to Al-Qaeda, stated in an interview with Al-Arabiya that "the Iranian regime treated the Al-Qaeda Shura Council and other leaders of the extremist groups properly: At first, we were put in jail and then they liberated us, they treated us well, and they did not deliberately insult our sects or doctrines."[4]

Both Iran and Al-Qaeda continue to deny that there is any connection between them.

According to the article on the Al-Arabiya website: "Despite the repeated denials from Iran and the leaders of Al-Qaeda that there is no coordination or collaboration between them, people closely connected to Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Egyptian security sources refute [these denials] and stress that the coordination between the sides has continued since [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini assumed power in Tehran and the appearance of Al-Qaeda. This was handled by a third party – senior members of the MB."

The article quotes an anonymous Egyptian security source who says that the coordination between senior members of Al-Qaeda and Iran started in the mid-1980s with the mediation of the MB.

In 1986 a meeting took place in Afghanistan between senior members of the MB and Osama bin Laden in the presence of Muhammad Khalil Al-Hukaima aka Abu Jihad Al-Masri and senior Al-Qaeda member Ahmad Hussein 'Ajiza, to reach agreements about coordination and mutual interests. It was suspected that Al-Masri was responsible for Al-Qaeda's propaganda; he was killed in an American strike in Pakistan in 2008.

Another meeting was held between bin Laden and Muhammad Hamid Abu Al-Nasr, the General Guide of the MB at the time, and his deputy Mustafa Mashhour, who visited the Afghani camps of the mujahideen and declared their support for bin Laden and his comrades. They learned of bin Laden's intention to establish an organization to help Muslims in regions of crisis, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda.

According to the Egyptian security source, at that point meetings had also been held between Iranian elements and Al-Zawahiri, who wanted the new organization to attack countries such as Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen, unlike bin Laden, who favored attacking the far enemy (i.e., the U.S.) rather than the near one, (i.e., the leaders of Arab countries), and stationing Al-Qaeda forces in areas where the Muslims needed support, like Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Chechnya.

Ayman Faid, advisor to bin Laden, told the Al-Arabiya website that the collaboration between Al-Qaeda and Iran was organized by Al-Zawahiri and the head of the MB in Egypt and Afghanistan.

Faid said that Muhammad Shawqi Al-Islambuli, brother of Khalid Al-Islambuli, the man who assassinated President Anwar Sadat, was the link between Iran and Al-Zawahiri.

Senior members of the MB in Afghanistan, who were also senior members of the jihadi stream in Afghanistan, started to coordinate between Al-Qaeda and Iran. In 1969, the senior Afghani jihadi leaders established Jamiat-e Islami, headed by Afghani member of the MB Abd Al-Rahim Niazi. The group also included the Afghani jihadi leaders Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The members of Jamiat-e Islami followed the instructions of the MB in Egypt that stipulated that they had to coordinate with Iran and with the Shi'ite parties loyal to Iran in Afghanistan, and not to carry out terror attacks anywhere in the world without coordinating with Iran.

Ayman Faid, advisor to Osama bin Laden

The article quotes Dr. Jammal Al-Minshawi, an Egyptian doctor who treated the Afghani mujahideen in Afghanistan and Pakistan and was a friend of Al-Zawahiri and of Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, who were senior Al-Qaeda officials. According to Al-Minshawi, Al-Zawahiri asked Iran for $100 million in exchange for perpetrating terror attacks in Egypt, but Iran rejected his request because it doubted his capability and that of his cohorts to make good on their proposal considering the vigilance of the Egyptian security forces and also because of the tremendous amount of money he had asked for.

Al-Minshawi noted that in 2003, Iran hosted senior members of Al-Qaeda, including Al-Zawahiri, Sayf Al-'Adl, Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani, the Egyptian Muhammad Shawqi Al-Islambuli, and Abu Muhammad Al-Masri.

Al-Minshawi added that several senior members of the organization traveled to Iran to participate in explosives training, and that Iran granted them refuge during the American bombing of their bases in the Afghani mountains of Tora Bora, and later used them as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States and the West.


[1], February 13, 2021.

[2], January 12, 2021.

[3] See for example MEMRI JTTM reports Report: Sayf Al-‘Adl Still In Teheran, November 23, 2015; Photographs of Osama Bin Laden's Sons in An Iranian Prison, January 9, 2018.




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