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FBI: New al Qaeda leader lived in U.S. for 15 years

MIAMI -- A suspected al Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the U.S. has become chief of the terror network's global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.

Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc said.

That puts him in regular contact with al Qaeda's senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden, LeBlanc said.

The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Shukrijumah and two other leaders were part of an "external operations council" that designed and approved terrorism plots and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in U.S. drone attacks, leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief and successor to his former boss.

"He's making operational decisions is the best way to put it," said LeBlanc, the FBI's lead Shukrijumah investigator. "He's looking at attacking the U.S. and other Western countries. Basically through attrition, he has become his old boss."

The FBI has been searching for Shukrijumah since 2003. He is thought to be the only al Qaeda leader to have once held permanent U.S. resident status, or a green card.

Shukrijumah was named this year in a federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York's subway system in 2009. The indictment was the first criminal charge against Shukrijumah.

He is also suspected of playing a role in plotting potential al Qaeda bomb attacks in Norway and a never-executed attack on subways in the United Kingdom.

Travel records and other evidence also indicate that Shukrijumah did research and surveillance in spring 2001 for a never-attempted plot to disrupt commerce in the Panama Canal by sinking a freighter.

Shukrijumah, who trained at al Qaeda's Afghanistan camps in the late 1990s, was labeled a "clear and present danger" to the U.S. in 2004.

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