Sunday, May 8, 2011

'Open question' who succeeds Osama: US official

Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri delivers a speech in this videograb provided by the Site Intelligence Group. Zawahiri, the Egyptian surgeon considered the real mastermind of the global terror franchise, is now set to succeed Osama bin Laden as the world's most wanted man. -- PHOTO: AFP/HO/SITE INTELLIGENCE GROUP

WASHINGTON - AL-QAEDA is struggling to cope with the killing of its leader and it remains an 'open question' who will succeed Osama bin Laden, a senior US intelligence official said Saturday.

Al-Qaeda acknowledged the death of Osama in a statement but 'it is noteworthy that the group did not announce a new leader, suggesting it is still trying to deal with Bin Laden's demise,' the intelligence official told reporters.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian surgeon long considered Al-Qaeda's number two, 'is obviously the presumed successor,' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

'But there are strong indications he is not popular within certain circles of the group. So I believe it's an open question as to who will take over from Osama bin Laden.' Some within Al-Qaeda saw Zawahiri as lacking charisma and given to meddling or 'micro-managing,' the official said.

'If free and fair elections were held, Zawahiri most likely would have a fight on his hands,' the official said. Like his Saudi-born co-conspirator, Zawahiri has been in hiding ever since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Unlike his late comrade, who was killed by US forces in a nighttime raid on his compound in Pakistan, Zawahiri is presumed still at large. Reportedly last seen in October 2001 in eastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border, he has released multiple videos from hiding, calling for war on the West. -- AFP

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