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al-Qaeda Makes Ayman al-Zawahiri New Leader

Ayman al-ZawahiriEgyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, the veteran terrorist leader who authorised the July 7 suicide bombings in London, was appointed head of al-Qaeda this week – some time after US Special Forces killed previous head Osama bin Laden. Al-Zawahiri has been second in command of the terrorist group for some time and has been widely tipped to assume the role of leader after his predecessor’s death.

Aside from the July 7 bombings on London’s transport system in 2005, which resulted in 52 deaths, al-Zawahiri is also credited by many to have been the brains behind the September 11 attacks on the US. He has been second on the most wanted list of terrorists, only after bin Laden, and has a £15 million bounty on his head. He unfortunately survived a missile strike 5 years ago, which was aimed at killing him. al-Zawahiri is now expected to try to organise a major attack in the West in order to show the global network is still a force to be reckoned with, as the organisation said that it would pursue its holy war against Israel and the US until Islam is empty of all invading armies.

The decision to make the 59-year-old the head of al-Qaeda may be a blow to some of the other sector leaders wanting the job. So now he will have to face fighting off US assassin squads, as well as al-Qaeda rivals trying to get rid of him. The role for him also comes amid signs that Arabs are beginning to oppose the organisation and demand secular democracy. His hopes of a global Islamic caliphate have been dented by protesters inspiring calls for popular government throughout the Middle East, following Hosni Mubarak being ousted.

Al-Zawahiri will also have a hard time asserting himself in the role that bin Laden created. A senior administration official says that al-Zawahiri hasn’t shown strong organisational or leadership skills, while he has been in al-Qaeda or before when he was in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. His place in the top leadership spot will probably generate criticsm, and possibly dispute and alienation, within the terrorist network. He simply doesn’t have the credentials bin Laden had, he added.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser, said that al-Zawahiri doesn’t have the same qualities that helped bin Laden as head of al-Qaeda. He’s not charismatic, he bluntly said, and he thinks the number two has a lot of critics within the organisation. They could start eating themselves more and more from within, he added. These aren’t the only US officials who don’t believe al-Zawahiri has what it takes, while British terrorism expert Professor Paul Wilkinson agrees, saying that, while al-Zawahiri is more theoretical and strategic, he doesn’t have the same charisma and personality as his predecessor.

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