Al-Qaeda’s new chief Ayman al-Zawahri may struggle to rally his embattled militants after the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2 and the simultaneous capture by US forces of some of the group’s innermost secrets. The Egyptian-born ideologue and plotter is expected to want to launch a big attack to cement his authority over the far-flung network , which staged the Sept 11. 2001 raids and other bombings on Western targets around the world.
In a June 8 eulogy, Zawahri promised to avenge bin Laden, pouring scorn on the US decision to bury his body at sea, a choice he said showed Washington feared bin Laden even in death. “He went to his Lord as a martyr, he who terrorised America while alive and terrorised it while dead, such that they tremble from having a grave for him, due to what they know of the love of tens of millions for him,” he said. Bin Laden was shot dead on May 2 in a US raid on a house in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.
Computers, electronic data storage devices and mobile phones seized in the raid are now being examined by US intelligence specialists . But al-Qaeda’s ability to stage a big assault like Sept. 11 has been diminished by the killing or capture of experienced commanders over the years, and its message of violence has been hurt by civilian-led Arab revolts against authoritarian rule. And for reasons of personality and background Zawahri could find it hard to emulate the unifying role played by bin Laden, his predecessor and the network’s founding figurehead, among the increasingly disparate network.
Zawahri’s apparently prickly temperament and Egyptian background could make it hard to mediate between the Egyptians who have dominated the upper reaches of the central al-Qaeda group and other militants, including nationals of Arab, Asian, African and European countries as well as of the United States. Al-Qaeda’s leadership has struggled with internal disputes at times, and some arguments over strategy and ideology have been marked by strains based on nationality, historians say. Of particular interest will be Zawahri’s relationship to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula , which is based in Yemen , led by a Yemeni and has many Saudis in its ranks. Many are believed to have felt close to bin Laden, who had Yemeni ancestry. Economic Times