Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's chief strategist, is poised to take command of a group that has been in decline for years.
Now, Al Qaeda’s No. 2 figure is poised to become successor to the man who meant everything to Al Qaeda – founder, fundraiser, charismatic cheerleader.
But Mr. Zawahiri, a surgeon and the scion of an upper-class Egyptian family, strikes many as haughty and droning with little of the ability Mr. bin Laden had to inspire. Irascible, he is given to fueling obscure ideological conflicts within jihadi ranks; Al Qaeda itself reportedly split into two factions before bin Laden’s death, with Zawahiri in charge of the spinoff, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Three decades ago, a member of Zawahiri’s Islamic Jihad group recognized his lack of leadership, reportedly telling him, “No matter what group you belong to, you cannot be its leader.”
The solemn Zawahiri, however, has weathered countless obstacles – bombing raids, assassination attempts, brutal imprisonment, and dissension within his own ranks – to wage war on America and its allies.
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