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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid