Zawahri Too Divisive to Lead al-Qaeda?

Despite strong credentials, al-Qaeda No. 2 lacks bin Laden's charisma
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2011 7:24 AM CDT
In this file image from al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden, right, listens to deputy Ayman al-Zawahri speaking at an undisclosed location.   (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera/APTN)
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(Newser) – Longtime bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahri has been generally assumed to be next in line for the leadership of al-Qaeda. But while the Egyptian surgeon has the smarts and the ideology, he lacks Osama bin Laden's charisma and is divisive to many in the terrorist organization, reports the Washington Post. “If free and fair elections (were conducted), Zawahri would most likely have a fight on his hands," said one intelligence analyst.

It may end up being a moot point: US officials have suggested they're closing in on him with intelligence gathered in the bin Laden raid. One congressman briefed on the matter said "we're hot on the trail." Other possible contenders to succeed bin Laden: Libyan jihadis Atiya Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi, both said to be more personable than Zawahri. The group's recent statement confirming bin Laden's death made no mention of a successor, and one analyst tells the Post it's a mistake to make too big a deal of the issue. “The jihadists do not obsess over who is the No. 1 or No. 2 leader of a particular group."

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