Al Qaeda's Up-and-Comers

Newsweek, May 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

Al Qaeda's Up-and-Comers


With its top man out of the way, who stands to fill his shoes? A look at the history and habits of the terror outfit's future leading men.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Title: OBL's likely successor

Background: Eye surgeon

Special skill: Al Qaeda's most prominent spokesman

Hiding place: Last seen in Khost, Afghanistan, in 2001

Bona fides: Operational brain behind September 11

Best known for: Participated in 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings

Trademark: Yellow glasses

Saif al-Adel

Title: International operations chief

Background: Egyptian special forces

Special skill: Organization

Hiding place: Waziristan, according to reports

Bona fides: Spent nine years under house arrest in Tehran

Best known for: U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998

Trademark: Chin fuzz

Abu Yahya al-Libi

Title: Leading theologian

Background: Poet and scholar

Special skill: Al Qaeda's leading propagandist

Hiding place: Afghanistan or Pakistan

Bona fides: Escaped from U.S. prison in Bagram, Afghanistan

Best known for: Tried to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi

Trademark: Florid public statements

Nasser al-Wuhayshi

Title: Arabian Peninsula leader

Background: OBL's personal secretary

Special skill: Escaped from prison in Sana, Yemen, in 2006

Hiding place: Yemen

Bona fides: Fought alongside bin Laden in Tora Bora

Best known for: Escaping Yemeni prison

Trademark: Small fry: less than5 feet tall

Adam Gadahn

Title: Spokesman

Background: Loves death-metal music

Special skill: Speaks English, good with technology

Hiding place: Moved to Pakistan in 1998, married an Afghan refugee

Bona fides: Jailed for beating up his mosque's chairman

Best known for: Introducing OBL to the mortgage crisis

Trademark: Grandson of a Jewish urologist

Adnan el-Shukrijumah

Title: External operations chief

Background: Studied chemistry

Special skill: Lived in U. …

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