Al-Qaida named a new leader on Thursday, promoting Ayman al-Zawahiri to the top spot less than two months after U.S. forces shot and killed Osama Bin Laden.
“The general command of al-Qaida announces, after consultations, the appointment of Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahri as head of the group,” the group said in statement, according to a translation by Al Jazeera television. “We seek with the aid of God to call for the religion of truth and incite our nation to fight.”
Most experts had predicted that Zawahiri, who had served as Bin Laden’s long-time no. 2, would ultimately be given al-Qaida's top job when the time came. Still, reports last month that the group had named a different jihadist veteran as its interim chief cast some doubts on that assumption.
The New York Times on Zawahri:
Mr. Zawahri, who trained as a doctor, has been described as the operational leader of the group, but he is seen as lacking Bin Laden’s charisma and natural leadership ability, leading to questions over whether he will be able to attract and inspire a new generation of jihadist recruits.
And the Washington Post:
Zawahiri, 59, is regarded as a deeply religious leader who had the skill and experience to help turn an Afghan guerrilla movement into a global terrorist organization. But he is also considered rigid and lacking in charisma, and terrorism experts say it is unclear whether he can rebuild an organization that has been under siege by U.S. military and intelligence forces.
Last month, the FBI placed Zawahiri atop its Most Wanted Terrorist list, a spot previously held by Bin Laden. The agency is offering $25 million for information that leads to his capture.