Meet al-Qaeda's No. 2: Ayman al-Zawahri
Ayman al-Zawahri likely to step up
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2011 3:44 AM CDT
With Osama bin Laden dead, control of al-Qaeda probably falls to his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.    (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera/APTN)

(Newser) – With Osama bin Laden dead, al-Qaeda "Chief Operations Officer" Ayman al-Zawahri will most likely take over the terrorist organization. But with al-Qaeda so decentralized and loosely linked, bin Laden's death is not likely to have many immediate effects, writes Nicholas Kristof on his New York Times blog. Bin Laden's killing "might have mattered more in 2002 or 2003," writes Kristof, but since then "popular opinion has moved more against him, and you no longer see Osama T-shirts for sale in the markets." Kristof adds: "Al-Qaeda is already going through a difficult time because it has been sidelined by the Arab Spring protests."

Zawahri has long been a major figure in al-Qaeda. He has been friends with bin Laden since fighting alongside him in the 1980s in Afghanistan, reports Reuters. Born to a rich Egyptian family in 1951, Zawahri has been a militant since 1973, when he was still a medical student. He was among the 301 people arrested for the assassination of Egyptian president President Anwar Sadat in 1981, but was cleared of involvement.