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Al-Qaida’s ‘weird’ silence over Zawahiri successor

PARIS: 5 months after america introduced the killing of al-Qaida‘s chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, the worldwide jihadist group has nonetheless not confirmed his dying or introduced a brand new boss.
In early August, US President Joe Biden stated US armed forces fired two missiles from a drone flying above the Afghan capital, hanging al-Zawahiri’s protected home and killing him.
However the group’s propaganda arms have continued to broadcast undated audio or video messages of the bearded Egyptian ideologue who led the group after US particular forces in 2011 killed its charismatic founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
“That is actually weird,” stated Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the Counter-Extremism Venture assume tank.
“A community solely works with a frontrunner. You want an individual round which all the things coalesces.”
Virtually all choices stay open.
“It may in fact be the case that america is fallacious about his dying,” researchers Raffaello Pantucci and Kabir Taneja wrote in early December on the Lawfare web site.
However “this would appear unlikely given the arrogance with which President Biden publicly spoke concerning the strike.”
One other risk is that the group has to this point did not make contact with Zawahiri‘s most certainly successor, his former quantity two, who goes by the nom de guerre Saif al-Adl or “sword of justice”.
A former Egyptian particular forces lieutenant-colonel who turned to jihadism within the Nineteen Eighties, he’s believed by observers to be in Iran.
The Islamic republic’s Shiite rulers formally oppose Sunni al-Qaida, however opponents have repeatedly accused Iran of cooperating with the community and giving sanctuary to its leaders.
For Schindler, Saif al-Adl “is a legal responsibility but additionally an asset for the Iranian regime”.
In keeping with its pursuits, Tehran may determine handy him over to america, or enable him to assault the West.
Al-Qaida can also be protecting quiet about Zawahiri’s demise below stress from the Taliban, Pantucci and Taneja advised.
The group issued a rigorously worded assertion in August, neither confirming Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan nor acknowledging his dying.
“Their choice to not remark may very well be a part of their efforts to handle their fragile however deep relationship with Al-Qaida, whereas additionally avoiding drawing consideration to the overseas terror group presence in direct contravention of their settlement with america,” they stated.
Saif al-Adl may be lifeless or in hiding to keep away from the destiny of his predecessor or the 2 final leaders of the community’s foremost rival, the Islamic State group, who have been additionally killed final yr.
Zawahiri didn’t attempt to emulate bin Laden’s charisma and affect after he took over the community however performed a key position in decentralising the group.
Al-Qaida is right now a far cry from the group that carried out the September 11, 2001 assaults towards america.
It now has autonomous franchises scattered throughout the Center East, Africa and Southeast Asia which might be far much less depending on central command than beforehand when it comes to operations, funding and technique.
Barak Mendelsohn, a US-based al-Qaida knowledgeable, stated it was arduous to inform why the group was taking time to announce a brand new chief, including that the delay was not “very consequential”.
“In the end the wait displays al-Qaida central’s restricted significance,” he stated.
“It is a image unifying teams throughout borders, however its operational relevance is low.”
Al-Qaida’s arch-enemy Islamic State has confronted related difficulties in filling its management since its “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself throughout a US raid in Syria in 2019.
After his two successors have been killed final yr, IS this autumn selected a relative unknown as its new chief, who claims heritage from the prophet’s Quraysh tribe to spice up his legitimacy.
Tore Hamming, a fellow on the Worldwide Centre for the Research of Radicalisation, stated it was not important for Al-Qaida to have a symbolic chief to talk in its title.
“We now have seen with the Islamic State (group) since 2019, it doesn’t essentially matter,” he stated.
IS elected new caliphs, however “nobody knew who they have been and by no means heard from them. But nonetheless associates remained loyal,” he defined.
“For al-Qaida it may very well be the identical, simply with a council of senior figures enjoying the position of an amir,” or chief.

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