Osama bin-Laden
Slain leader bin-Laden's successor has been named. Image: swanksalot/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Al-Qaida has named its successor to slain leader Osama bin Laden. The terrorist group’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahri, a doctor from a prominent Egyptian family, was named Thursday in a statement posted on several jihadist websites.

Al-Qaida official statement

“The general leadership of al-Qaida group, after the completion of consultation, announces that Sheikh Dr. Ayman Zawahri, may God give him success, has assumed responsibility for command of the group,” the pro-jihad Islamic website Ansar al-Mujahedeen (Followers of the Holy Warriors) reported.

Bin-Laden’s close ally

Al-Quaida gave no information on its selection process, but the appointment came as no surprise. Al-Zawahri, 59, has worked alongside bin Laden for decades. They met in the early 1980s in Afghanistan, where al-Zawahri treated wounded Islamic militants who were fighting Soviet forces. Their collaboration led to the formation of the global terrorist network in the late ’80s.

A known strategist

Al-Zawahri is considered by some to be the brains behind many of al-Quaida’s strategies. He was the first to suggest suicide bombers and is known for his tactical and organizational skills. He has vowed to continue the group’s campaign against the U.S. and its allies.

Noman Benotman, who formerly worked with bin-Laden and al-Zawahri and has since abandoned violence, believes that al-Zawahri sees it as his mission to mobilize all Muslims against their perceived enemies. “I think he will try to politicize al-Qaida. He’s a politician, but a violent one.”

New leader lacks charisma

Professor Paul Wilkinson, of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University in Scotland, believes that many al-Quaida followers will find it difficult to follow al-Zawahri. “Bin Laden was regarded by his militant followers as a very charismatic leader,” he said, adding that al-Zawahri is seen as more of a strategist.

“Replacing (bin-Laden) is going to be very difficult,” said Journalist Peter Bergen. Regarding al-Zawahri he continued, “he’s not well-liked or well-regarded, even by people in his own Egyptian sort of jihad group. He’s regarded as a divisive figure.”

‘A target of the U.S.’

Former U.S. intelligence officer Robert Ayers said “He’s a gray bureaucrat, not a leader who can energize and rally the troops. The only thing his promotion will accomplish is to elevate his priority as a target for the U.S.”

The location of al-Zawahri is unknown, though many believe him to be hiding along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The U.S. government is offering a $25 million reward for information leading to his apprehension.

Sources

MSN: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43421125/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/t/ayman-al-zawahri-succeeds-osama-bin-laden-al-qaida-leader/
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2004202/Ayman-Al-Zawahiri-New-Al-Qaeda-leader-named-6-weeks-Bin-Ladens-death.html
CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/06/16/al.qaeda.new.leader/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

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