5 months after america introduced the killing of Al-Qaeda’s chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, the worldwide jihadist group has nonetheless not confirmed his dying or introduced a brand new boss.
In early August, US President Joe Biden stated US armed forces fired two missiles from a drone flying above the Afghan capital, placing al-Zawahiri’s secure home and killing him.
However the group’s propaganda arms have continued to broadcast undated audio or video messages of the bearded Egyptian ideologue who led the group after US particular forces in 2011 killed its charismatic founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
“That is actually weird,” stated Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the Counter-Extremism Challenge assume tank.
“A community solely works with a pacesetter. You want an individual round which every little thing coalesces.”
Virtually all choices stay open.
“It might after all be the case that america is incorrect about his dying,” researchers Raffaello Pantucci and Kabir Taneja wrote in early December on the Lawfare web site.
However “this would appear unlikely given the arrogance with which President Biden publicly spoke in regards to the strike.”
Successor in hiding?
One other chance is that the group has up to now didn’t make contact with Zawahiri’s most certainly successor, his former quantity two, who goes by the nom de guerre Saif al-Adl or “sword of justice”.
A former Egyptian particular forces lieutenant-colonel who turned to jihadism within the Nineteen Eighties, he’s believed by observers to be in Iran.
The Islamic republic’s Shiite rulers formally oppose Sunni Al-Qaeda, however opponents have repeatedly accused Iran of cooperating with the community and giving sanctuary to its leaders.
For Schindler, Saif al-Adl “is a legal responsibility but additionally an asset for the Iranian regime”.
Based on its pursuits, Tehran might determine handy him over to america, or enable him to assault the West.
Al-Qaeda can also be retaining quiet about Zawahiri’s demise underneath strain from the Taliban, Pantucci and Taneja prompt.
The group issued a rigorously worded assertion in August, neither confirming Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan nor acknowledging his dying.
“Their choice to not remark could possibly be a part of their efforts to handle their fragile however deep relationship with Al-Qaeda, whereas additionally avoiding drawing consideration to the overseas terror group presence in direct contravention of their settlement with america,” they stated.
Saif al-Adl may be useless or in hiding to keep away from the destiny of his predecessor or the 2 final leaders of the community’s primary rival, the Islamic State group, who have been additionally killed final yr.
Zawahiri didn’t attempt to emulate bin Laden’s charisma and affect after he took over the community however performed a key position in decentralising the group.
Al-Qaeda is as we speak a far cry from the group that carried out the September 11, 2001 assaults towards america.
It now has autonomous franchises scattered throughout the Center East, Africa and Southeast Asia which are far much less depending on central command than beforehand by way of operations, funding and technique.
Barak Mendelsohn, a US-based Al-Qaeda knowledgeable, stated it was onerous to inform why the group was taking time to announce a brand new chief, including that the delay was not “very consequential”.
“In the end the wait displays Al-Qaeda central’s restricted significance,” he stated.
“It is a image unifying teams throughout borders, however its operational relevance is low.”
Al-Qaeda’s arch-enemy Islamic State has confronted comparable difficulties in filling its management since its “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself throughout a US raid in Syria in 2019.
After his two successors have been killed final yr, IS this autumn selected a relative unknown as its new chief, who claims heritage from the prophet’s Quraysh tribe to spice up his legitimacy.
Tore Hamming, a fellow on the Worldwide Centre for the Examine of Radicalisation, stated it was not important for Al-Qaeda to have a symbolic chief to talk in its identify.
“We’ve got seen with the Islamic State (group) since 2019, it doesn’t essentially matter,” he stated.
IS elected new caliphs, however “nobody knew who they have been and by no means heard from them. But nonetheless associates remained loyal,” he defined.
“For Al-Qaeda it could possibly be the identical, simply with a council of senior figures taking part in the position of an amir,” or chief.
(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is printed from a syndicated feed.)
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