Sunday 23 July 2017

Candidates for Al Qaida leadership

Alistair Keely

The death of Osama bin Laden will lead to a possible power struggle in al Qaida and the appointment of a new leader. Here are some of the main figures in the organisation:

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI

Egyptian-born doctor and surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri is the organisation's second-in-command and is expected by many commentators to succeed Osama bin Laden immediately.

He has worked in the al Qaida organisation since its inception and is often described as the "brains" of the terror group and the September 11 attacks.

With Osama bin Laden in hiding following the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001, he was the organisation's most public face, repeatedly denouncing the United States and its allies in video messages.

He was born into an upper-class family of scholars and doctors in Cairo and he has devoted his life to Islamic theology, history, and jihad.

He graduated from Cairo University's medical school in 1974 and obtained a masters degree in surgery four years later.

But he turned from saving lives to taking lives. He rose to prominence when he was tried along with other radical Islamists for their part in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat during a Cairo military parade.

He was convicted and served a three-year sentence for illegal possession of arms. After his release, he left for Saudi Arabia before travelling to Pakistan and nearby Afghanistan, where he established a faction of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.

He met bin Laden in the mid-1980s when both were in Pakistan to support guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

SAIF AL-ADEL

His name means sword of justice and is the alias of a senior member of al Qaida. He is believed to be a member of the organisation's military committee.

He is a former colonel in the Egyptian army special forces and is accused of helping to mastermind the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

He is also suspected of teaching militants to use explosives and training some of the September 11 hijackers, and is thought to have established a training facility in Somalia.

There has been speculation that he has fled Afghanistan to live in Iran. He has been on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists since 2001.

SULAIMAN ABU GHAITH

He was born in Kuwait and is regarded as a spokesman of al Qaida. He has appeared on several video and audio tapes, claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks.

He is a former religious studies teacher who first came to prominence during the 1991 Gulf war when he denounced the invasion by Saddam Hussein.

He then turned his attention to the Kuwaiti government and royal family, demanding the institution of Sharia law. He was banned from giving sermons and removed from his mosque.

In 2000 he left Kuwait for Afghanistan, where he met Osama bin Laden and joined al Qaida. He has been used by the organisation to widen its appeal away from ultra-conservative and mostly elderly clerics to a younger audience.

He is one of America's most wanted al Qaida suspects.

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