If the reports are true, Osama Bin Laden’s longtime No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, missed out on a promotion when al-Qaida leaders picked a new interim chief recently. But al-Zawahiri got a consolation prize Thursday: He was given his boss’s former spot atop the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list. (OK, maybe prize isn’t the right word for it…)
The FBI had kept Bin Laden – complete with a big, red “deceased” label on his photo – at the top of its most wanted list even after he was killed earlier this month by a team of Navy SEALs. But that changed Thursday, when the agency officially made the switch, moving al-Zawahiri to the top of the list. The bureau is offering $25 million for information that leads to his capture.
Citing an unnamed FBI source, The Atlantic says that the Bin Laden photo was left up for more than three weeks “in part to drive home the point that U.S. forces had killed the terrorist leader, and in part to hold the spot open while the FBI determined who would officially fill it.” That suggests that even though al-Qaida is said to have tapped Saif al-Adel to lead the militant group in the interim, bureau officials are banking on al-Zawahiri getting the top job in the end.
In related terrorist bounty news, U.S. officials said earlier this week that they won’t pay out the $25 million reward for Bin Laden because the raid that killed him was based on electronic intelligence, and not a human tipster.