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Al Qaeda faces a succession problem after the murder of Zawahiri

#Qaeda #faces #succession #problem #murder #Zawahiri

The killing of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a US drone strike will not disrupt the operations of the terror group’s affiliates around the world, but it will pave the way for a potentially difficult follow-up process.

The Egyptian jihadist, who the United States says was killed in hiding in the Afghan capital of Kabul, never attempted to match the charisma and influence of his predecessor Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. to replicate .

But after US special forces killed bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, he played a key role in promoting a decentralization of the group, which led to al Qaeda concessions springing up around the world.

These include al-Shabaab, which still controls much of rural Somalia, the JNIM active in West Africa – particularly Mali – and the Indian subcontinent branch of al-Qaeda (AQIS).

“He accepted important new players in the al-Qaeda network,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the NGO Counter-Extremism Project and former UN adviser.

“So it’s a blow to al-Qaeda,” he said. But “nothing will stop it,” planned by al-Qaeda members.

– “A Little Challenge” –

Two other Egyptians are among the most likely successors pointed out to analysts contacted by AFP.

One of the contenders is Saif al-Adel, a former lieutenant colonel in Egypt’s special forces and figure in al-Qaeda’s old guard whose presence in Iran has been reported.

The Islamic Republic’s Shia rulers are officially opposed to Sunni al-Qaeda, but opponents have repeatedly accused Iran of collaborating with the network and providing sanctuary to its leaders.

Also in the running is Abu Abd al-Karim al-Masri, who is part of the leadership of the Syrian jihadist group Hurras al-Din and is believed to be in Syria.

“Zawahiri wasn’t involved in the day-to-day decision making of the affiliates…but you need a figurehead with some notoriety and seniority because all leaders of all affiliates have to swear personal loyalty to him,” he told Schindler.

“So replacing him will be a bit of a challenge.”

Rita Katz, the director and co-founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, said al Qaeda succession was the “big question” after Zawahiri’s assassination.

“Unlike after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, much of the leadership moved to Syria, where many were killed,” she said.

She said little is known of Adel’s whereabouts, but stressed it is far from certain that he is still in the Islamic Republic, where observers believe he spent about two decades.

“Rumour has it that he was released from prison in Iran and moved to Syria. However, not much is known,” she said.

– ‘Shrinking Bank’ –

Adel joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group in the 1980s. He was arrested but later released and traveled to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda under Zawahiri.

The investigation into Tehran’s alleged relationship with al-Qaeda intensified in August 2020 after Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, the former number two of the group under Zawahiri and known by his nickname Abu Mohammed al-Qaeda, was killed in Tehran, according to Israeli sources agents. Masri.

That prompted then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – just a week before the departure of his boss, President Donald Trump – to claim Iran is the “new Afghanistan” for al Qaeda fighters, a statement met with some skepticism by analysts has been recorded .

The Soufan Center, a US-based security research organization, said the assassination of a number of al-Qaeda veterans in recent years has left the network with a “dwindling bank of potential successors.”

It said Adel’s “long presence” in predominantly Shiite Iran “could affect his candidacy in certain circles.”

Younger al-Qaeda cadres may prefer a figure like Masri, who in Syria “worked diligently to cultivate liaisons with potential recruits who were more focused on local targets and motivated by narrow-minded grievances in regions ravaged by civil war and insurgency.” .

“The election of the next al-Qaeda leader will say a lot about the organization’s future plans,” it said.

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#Qaeda #faces #succession #problem #murder #Zawahiri

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