Bin Laden Groomed Rising al-Qaeda Leader, 36

Al-Wuhayshi, figure in new security alerts, served as his personal aide

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2013 10:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – The name Nasser al-Wuhayshi is starting to become more familiar to Americans, thanks to the recent spate of security alerts. It was messages between him and overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri that triggered US alarm. So who is he? Some snippets from various stories:

  • Wuhayshi is 36 and runs al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula out of Yemen. He recently got promoted to "general manager" of the al-Qaeda operation—essentially the No. 2 position in the entire network. CNN reports the move reflects the growing importance of him and his group.

  • He served as Osama bin Laden's personal aide for years, possibly even during the time of the 9/11 attacks, reports the Wall Street Journal. Bin Laden personally groomed him for a leading role in the terror organization.
  • Wuhayshi fled to Iran from Afghanistan in 2001, then got extradited to Yemen, reports the New York Times. He escaped in 2006, eventually establishing AQAP in 2009. He modeled the group on bin Laden's structure, but ordered subordinates to swear allegiance to him, says a Georgetown expert. (Still, he is said to have a "soft-spoken, humble" manner similar to bin Laden, and is well-liked by his fighters, says the CNN profile.)
  • His group has carried out, or at least tried, some of al-Qaeda's most high-profile attacks. That includes the failed underwear bomber plot in 2009.

A frame grab from video of Nasser al-Wuhayshi.
A frame grab from video of Nasser al-Wuhayshi.   (YouTube)
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