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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More