Al-Qaeda’s ‘Bizarre’ Silence over Killed Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

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Five months after the United States introduced the killing of Al-Qaeda’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 mentioned US armed forces fired two missiles from a drone flying above the Afghan capital, hanging al-Zawahiri’s protected home and killing him.

But 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.

“This is admittedly weird,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the Counter-Extremism Project think tank.

“A network only works with a leader. You need a person around which everything coalesces.”

Almost all choices stay open.

“It might after all be the case that the United States is fallacious about his dying,” researchers Raffaello Pantucci and Kabir Taneja wrote in early December on the Lawfare web site.

But “this would seem unlikely given the confidence with which President Biden publicly spoke about the strike.”

Successor in hiding?

Another risk is that the group has to date did not make contact with Zawahiri’s more than likely successor, his former quantity two, who goes by the nom de guerre Saif al-Adl or “sword of justice”.

A former Egyptian special forces lieutenant-colonel who turned to jihadism in the 1980s, he is believed by observers to be in Iran.

The Islamic republic’s Shiite rulers officially oppose Sunni Al-Qaeda, but opponents have repeatedly accused Iran of cooperating with the network and giving sanctuary to its leaders.

For Schindler, Saif al-Adl “is a liability but also an asset for the Iranian regime”.

According to its pursuits, Tehran might resolve handy him over to the United States, or enable him to assault the West.

Al-Qaeda can also be retaining quiet about Zawahiri’s demise underneath strain from the Taliban, Pantucci and Taneja steered.

The group issued a rigorously worded assertion in August, neither confirming Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan nor acknowledging his dying.

“Their determination to not remark could possibly be a part of their efforts to handle their fragile however deep relationship with Al-Qaeda, whereas additionally avoiding drawing consideration to the overseas terror group presence in direct contravention of their settlement with the United States,” they said.

Saif al-Adl could also be dead or in hiding to avoid the fate of his predecessor or the two last leaders of the network’s main rival, the Islamic State group, who were also killed last year.

Zawahiri did not try to emulate bin Laden’s charisma and influence after he took over the network but played a key role in decentralising the group.

Al-Qaeda is at the moment a far cry from the group that carried out the September 11, 2001 assaults in opposition to the United States.

It now has autonomous franchises scattered across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia that are far less dependent on central command than previously in terms of operations, funding and strategy.

‘Limited importance’

Barak Mendelsohn, a US-based Al-Qaeda expert, said it was hard to tell why the group was taking time to announce a new leader, adding that the delay was not “very consequential”.

“Ultimately the wait displays Al-Qaeda central’s restricted significance,” he said.

“It’s a symbol unifying groups across borders, but its operational relevance is low.”

Al-Qaeda’s arch-enemy Islamic State has confronted comparable difficulties in filling its management since its “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a US raid in Syria in 2019.

After his two successors were killed last year, IS this autumn chose a relative unknown as its new chief, who claims heritage from the prophet’s Quraysh tribe to boost his legitimacy.

Tore Hamming, a fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said it was not essential for Al-Qaeda to have a symbolic leader to speak in its name.

“We have seen with the Islamic State (group) since 2019, it does not necessarily matter,” he mentioned.

IS elected new caliphs, however “nobody knew who they had been and by no means heard from them. Yet nonetheless associates remained loyal,” he explained.

“For Al-Qaeda it could be the same, just with a council of senior figures playing the role of an amir,” or chief.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 employees and is revealed from a syndicated information company feed)

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