News / Middle East

Al-Zawahri Likely bin Laden's Heir Apparent

Osama bin Laden (L) sits with al-Qaida's top strategist and second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri in this 2001 file photo.
Osama bin Laden (L) sits with al-Qaida's top strategist and second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri in this 2001 file photo.

Multimedia

Elizabeth Arrott

Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, is being tipped as a likely successor to the slain al-Qaida chief. Whoever might lead the network would be hard pressed to fill bin Laden's role.    

Bin Laden's death has led to speculation about who, if anyone, will take control of al-Qaida.   Often mentioned is the Egyptian Islamist Ayman al-Zawahri, a frequent spokesman for the group who stressed his closeness to the late leader.  

Voice of rhetoric

In an audio address released in February, al-Zawahri noted that bin Laden assigned him to advise Mujahideen on Islamic Sharia law.  

Al-Zawahri has also been the voice of some of the group's more inflammatory rhetoric against the United States.  Perhaps most importantly, he is considered by many to be the brains of the terror network, responsible for the planning of the group's most notorious acts, including the 2001 attacks in the United States.  


Mohamed Salah, a political analyst and editor of the London-based al Hayat newspaper, says al-Zawahri is the real founder of al-Qaida, with his experience organizing Islamists in Egypt as important, if not more, than the ideological and financial leadership provided bin Laden.   

Trained surgeon

A surgeon by profession, al-Zawahri, like bin Laden, gave up a life of privilege to violently promote a puritanical Islamic ideal.  They met in the fight against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, but his roots in radical ideology stretch back to his teen years.

A fellow Islamist who shared an Egyptian prison cell with al-Zawahiri in the early 1980's, remembers him as a modest, poetry-reciting "gentleman," a surprisingly common description of terror leaders.  

Assem Abdel Maged says outward demeanor could be misleading.  Abdel Maged adds that in spite of his politeness and docility, al-Zawahiri is rigid, someone who one cannot oppose or face to change his views.    

Sheikh Abdel Maged, a senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah, says the Islamic Group has advised al-Zawahri to follow its example and abandon violence.  But the sheikh argues that as long as the reasons that provoked al Qaida remain - what he sees as American arrogance and support of Israel - so too will the group.  All the same, in recent years, al-Qaida has been forced to undergo change.  Part can be attributed to its leaders being forced underground.  

Whereabouts unkown


Al-Zawahri's location remains unknown.  But the movement has also become more diffuse, with affiliates often eclipsing bin Laden's group.   

Anwar al-Awlaki, of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, for example, has emerged as a powerful force, his charisma a stark contrast to the dour, scolding image al-Zawahri projects.  Sheikh Abdel Maged believes some day this younger generation may come to the fore.  

For now though, he believes al-Zawahri is the only candidate to succeed bin Laden.  But some terror experts question whether al-Qaida even needs a leader.  For one thing, they argue, bin Laden will remain a powerful even iconic symbol, long after his death.  Sheikh Abdel Maged agrees that the organization has moved far beyond its hierarchical origins.

Abdel Maged says al-Qaida is not a pyramid, rather it's an idea that lives in space, cyberspace in particular, nourished by American acts.   And it could be the American act of killing bin Laden will give his supporters scattered around the world more reason to carry on, no matter who might step in to succeed him.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs