Explained: Next In Line To Succeed Ayman al-Zawahiri As Al-Qaeda Chief And How New Emir Is Picked

Ayman al-Zawahiri Killed: al-Qaeda's new chief will be picked by its Shura or governing council, which consists of the group's core members.

By Aalok Sensharma
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 03:39 PM IST
Minute Read
Explained: Next In Line To Succeed Ayman al-Zawahiri As Al-Qaeda Chief And How New Emir Is Picked
Ayman al-Zawahiri, 71, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan's capital Kabul over the weekend. (Photo: Reuters)

Ayman al-Zawahiri's death in a drone strike by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Afghanistan's capital Kabul has created a vacuum in al-Qaeda, which has been trying to re-establish itself since the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the middle-east.

al-Zawahiri, the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), was Osama bin Laden's second-in-command in Qaeda and became its chief after his death in 2011. After bin Laden's death, al-Zawahiri was always pipped to be the terror group's new chief due to his closeness with the Qaeda founder.

However, this time, several men are in line to succeed al-Zawahiri. According to a report by United Nations (UN), four individuals are in the race to become the new Qaeda chief.

The frontrunner is Saif al-Adel. Described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as "one of the most experienced professional soldiers in the worldwide jihadi movement", al-Adel was the caretaker leader of Qaeda after Laden's death and al-Zawahiri's succession.

al-Adel was also a part of the Egyptian special forces and carries a $10 million bounty on his head. It is suspected that he went to Iran following the 9/11 attacks.

Experts believe that al-Adel can become the new Qaeda chief as the group tries to re-establish itself. Besides ABD al-Rahman al-Maghribi, who hails from Morocco and is the son-in-law of al-Zawahiri, can also succeed him. Like al-Adel, al-Maghribi - who carries a bounty of $7 million - had also fled to Iran after the 9/11 attacks.

Algerian-born Yezid Meharek is also in line to succeed al-Zawahiri. Reports suggest that Meharek, also known as Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, plays a key role in Qaeda's global management. He carries a $7 million bounty on his head.

Ahmed Diriye, the leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia, is also a contender to succeed al-Zawahiri. Also known as Ahmed Umar and Abu Ubaidah, US officials believe that Diriye has the "vision for al-Shabaab's terrorist attacks in Somalia as an element of al-Qaida's greater global aspirations".

Whosoever becomes the new Qaeda chief, he will become the next target of intelligence agencies as they try to neutralise Qaeda once and for all.

"The international context is favorable to Al Qaeda, which intends to be recognized again as the leader of global jihad… Al Qaeda propaganda is now better developed to compete with ISIL as the key actor in inspiring the international threat environment, and it may ultimately become a greater source of directed threat," the UN report says.

"According to one Member State, the Hittin Committee, which coordinates Al-Qaida global leadership, has demoted Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula below the African affiliates," the report read.

HOW AL-QAEDA's NEW CHIEF WILL BE PICKED?

Qaeda's new chief will be picked by its Shura or governing council, which consists of the group's core members. Here it must be mentioned that Shura members coordinate with other committees affiliated with Qaeda and its branches spread across the world.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO PICK THE NEW AL-QAEDA CHIEF?

After bin Laden's death in 2011, it took six weeks for the Shura to pick the new Qaeda chief. However, experts are not sure how much time it would take this time to pick al-Zawahiri's successor.

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