Ayman al-Zawahiri: Who is Al Qaeda's new leader?
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's operational leader for many years, will succeed Osama bin Laden as the terror group's new chief.
• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.Skip to next paragraph
Israeli general hints at another Gaza campaign
Unclaimed attack on Islamic school raises tension in Nigeria
See no evil? Activists doubt credibility of Arab League mission to Syria.
Arab League observers head to Syria's war-ravaged Homs
Christmas church bombings put global spotlight on 'Nigerian Taliban' (VIDEO)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Several jihadist websites posted a statement Thursday announcing Ayman al-Zawahiri as Al Qaeda's new leader, taking over the terror group after Osama bin Laden was killed in an early May raid in Pakistan.
Mr. Zawahiri's reported selection is no surprise – he was widely perceived as bin Laden's heir apparent. Speculation in mid-May that Al Qaeda would choose another Al Qaeda leader, Egyptian Saif al-Adel, never materialized. According to CNN, one of the statements said that Zawahiri was chosen to honor bin Laden's legacy.
Zawahiri, who is believed to be hiding in northwest Pakistan, has a $25 million price on his head from the FBI (the same amount offered for bin Laden) for his involvement in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. After bin Laden's death, he became the world's most-wanted terrorist.
Zawahiri has been Al Qaeda's operational leader for years – he helped plan 9/11 – but he lacks bin Laden's charisma and many Al Qaeda experts say it is unlikely he'll command the loyalty that bin Laden did, The Christian Science Monitor reported last month.
But Mr. Zawahiri, a surgeon and the scion of an upper-class Egyptian family, strikes many as haughty and droning with little of the ability Mr. bin Laden had to inspire. Irascible, he is given to fueling obscure ideological conflicts within jihadi ranks; Al Qaeda itself reportedly split into two factions before bin Laden’s death, with Zawahiri in charge of the spinoff, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Three decades ago, a member of Zawahiri’s Islamic Jihad group recognized his lack of leadership, reportedly telling him, “No matter what group you belong to, you cannot be its leader.”
Zawahiri joined Al Qaeda in 1998 and crafted the organization's strategy through several high-profile attacks and campaigns: the USS Cole bombing in 2000 in Yemen, the 9/11 attacks, and the stoking of civil war in Iraq following the US invasion.