A successor to Osama bin Laden has been chosen by al Qaida to lead the terrorist organisation following his death in a US Navy Seals raid on his Pakistan compound last month.
Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri (59) was announced as the new chief in a statement issued by the movement’s general command today.
He was al Qaida’s number two for the last ten years and issued a eulogy for bin Laden last week in which he said that he had terrified the USA in life and would continue to do so in death.
The statement, which was posted on an Islamist website today said: “The general command of al Qaida announces, after consultations, the appointment of Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri as head of the group.”
"We seek with the aid of God to call for the religion of truth and incite our nation to fight ... by carrying out jihad against the apostate invaders ... with their head being crusader America and its servant Israel, and whoever supports them."
Al-Zawahiri, a surgeon by training, is the son of an upper middle class Egyptian family of doctors and scholars but went on to found Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which merged with al Qaida in 1998.
He is on America’s most wanted list with a $25m (€18m) price on his head and is believed to run al Qaida operations from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region where he lives in hiding like bin Laden did.
He was jailed for three years in Egypt for militancy and was implicated in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, and a 1997 massacre of tourists in Luxor.
He left Egypt in the mid-1980s initially for Saudi Arabia, but soon headed for Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar where the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was based, and then to Afghanistan, where he joined forces with bin Laden.