What might bin Laden (R) have thought of the appointment of his former number two Zawahri (L)? TEL/AP/Press Association Images
Al Qaeda

US on new Al Qaeda head Zawahri: 'He's no bin Laden'

Ayman al-Zawahri will find it difficult to live up to his predecessor and mount attacks on the scale of 9/11.

THE US HAS vowed to hunt down and kill the successor to Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda but dismissed him as lacking the charisma and operational skills of his predecessor.

Ayman al-Zawahri was announced as the new head of Al Qaeda yesterday.

The 59-year-old Egyptian had been bin Laden’s second in command and was believed to be the “operational brains” behind the deadly 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001.

The Washington Post reports on the pressure he will be under to launch a major attack as revenge for bin Laden’s death but that in truth the organisation does not have the power to launch something on the scale of 9/11.

In its analysis of the appointment the BBC notes that Zawahri is now taking charge of “the brand” of Al Qaeda which has suffered a setback in the killing of its leader.

It notes the time which it took to appoint the leader which may be a sign of internal problems and differences.

The piece adds that given the Arab Spring sweeping across the Middle East in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria the message of Al Qaeda has for the large part become “redundant and irrelevant to the masses of ordinary people who desire change.”

Outgoing US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said that Zawahri’s appointment was a reminder that the terrorist network was still out there and needed to be pursued.

He told reporters at the Pentagon:

Despite having suffered a huge loss with the killing of bin Laden and a number of others, Al Qaeda seeks to perpetuate itself, seeks to find replacements for those who have been killed and remains committed to the agenda that bin Laden put before them.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, admiral Mike Mullen said that the US will now focus on targeting Zawahri as the country did in the case of bin Laden who was killed in a US Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Pakistan in May.

He said:

As we did both seek to capture and succeed in killing bin Laden, we certainly will do the same thing with Zawahri.

Gates told reporters that the US  was not reading much in to the fact it took seven weeks for Al Qaeda to name a successor: “It’s probably tough to count votes when you’re in a cave,” Gates added.

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