Zawahiri succeeds bin Laden, US vows to hunt him down

DUBAI, Lynne Nahhas- Al-Qaeda on Thursday named Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri to succeed slain leader Osama bin Laden and the United States promptly vowed to kill him just like his predecessor.
In a statement posted on an Islamist website, the jihadist network said: "The general command of Al-Qaeda announces, after consultations, the appointment of Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri as head of the group."

Zawahiri succeeds bin Laden, US vows to hunt him down
Al-Qaeda, it said, would relentlessly pursue its "jihad" (holy war) against the United States and Israel and that the fight would continue "until all invading armies leave the land of Islam."
The extremist network affirmed it would not "recognise any legitimacy of the so-called state of Israel."
"We will not accept or adhere to any agreement or accord that recognises it (Israel) or that robs a mile from Palestine, whether it is the United Nations controlled by top criminals or any other organisation."
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists the United States will seek to hunt down and kill the new Al-Qaeda leader.
"He and his organisation are still threatening us, and as we did both seek to capture and kill -- and succeed in killing -- bin Laden, we certainly will do the same thing with Zawahiri."
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Pentagon press conference the new Al-Qaeda leader will face "some challenges" while an unnamed official said Zawahiri hadn't "demonstrated strong leadership skills."
The US State Department dismissed the naming of Zawahiri.
"It barely matters who runs Al-Qaeda, because Al-Qaeda is a bankrupt ideology," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
In its statement, Al-Qaeda's general command pledged to "fulfill bin Laden’s oaths and remain under the overall leadership of the 'Emir of the Believers,' Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar," SITE Intelligence Group group reported.
It also voiced its "support (to) the uprisings of our oppressed Muslim people against the corrupt and tyrant leaders who have made our nation suffer in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya Yemen, Syria and Morocco."
Popular uprisings that have rocked the Middle East and North Africa since December have succeeded in toppling autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia but have struggled to overcome fierce crackdowns in Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The statement ends with a reminder that Islam forbids "oppression, against Muslims and non-Muslims, against friend and foe."
Like his slain Saudi-born co-conspirator, Zawahiri has been in hiding since the United States declared its war on terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Zawahiri, now Washington's most wanted man with a $25 million bounty on his head, was jailed for three years in Egypt for militancy.
He was also implicated in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, and a 1997 massacre of tourists in Luxor.
Facing a death sentence, he left Egypt in the mid-1980s initially for Saudi Arabia, but soon headed for Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar where the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was based, and then to Afghanistan, where he joined forces with bin Laden.
Zawahiri, 59, a surgeon who lacked bin Laden's charisma, has long been seen as the mastermind behind the global terror franchise.
From hiding, Zawahiri has issued video missives calling for war on the West. The most recent was a filmed eulogy to bin Laden, vowing to pursue jihad in a tape reported by the SITE Intelligence Group on June 8.
It was a message of loyalty to bin Laden, whom analysts believe alone had the charisma capable of uniting an increasingly disparate group divided between Egyptians and non-Egyptian Arabs.
The eulogy came nearly a month after a Saudi newspaper reported on May 5 that as the struggle for power simmered within the network, Zawahiri led US troops to bin Laden through his courier.
Al-Watan newspaper, quoting an unnamed "regional source," had said the top two Al-Qaeda men had differences and that the courier was a Pakistani national who knew he was being followed by the US military but disguised the fact.
With the return of an Egyptian figure in Al-Qaeda, Seif al-Adel, last autumn from Iran, the Egyptian faction had hatched a plan to dispose of Saudi-born bin Laden, according to Al-Watan.
It said Zawahiri's faction had persuaded bin Laden to leave tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border and take shelter instead in Abbottabad near Islamabad where he was finally unearthed and shot dead by elite US Navy SEALs.
US-Pakistani relations have soured following the raid amid mounting allegations that bin Laden evaded capture for years thanks to the complicity or incompetence of Pakistan's authorities.
But Pakistan's civilian government has angrily dismissed the allegations and its powerful military has warned of unspecified reprisals if another unilateral US raid were to occur.

Friday, June 17th 2011
Lynne Nahhas

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