‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’ backs Zawahiri to replace Bin Laden as global head of terrorist body


The Iraq affiliate of Al Qaeda has pledged allegiance to Ayman Al Zawahiri to fill in the vacant position of the network’s top leadership after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Al Arabiya TV reported on Monday.

“I tell our brothers in Al Qaeda led by Ayman Al Zawahiri, go on with God’s blessing and be glad that you have faithful brothers in the Islamic State of Iraq who are marching on the path of right,” said Abu Baker Al Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in a statement posted on the Internet.

Both ‘Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ and ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’ have not yet announced whether they would support the network’s second in command for the top leadership position.

Farrag Ismail, an expert in the affairs of Islamist groups who has met both Mr. Zawahiri and Mr. Bin Laden told Al Arabiya that the support of Al Qaeda in Iraq for Mr. Zawahiri “was not surprising.”

“Al Qaeda in Iraq is not as influential in the decision making within the network as some other branches of Al Qaeda around the world are,” Mr. Ismail, who is Editor of the Al Arabiya Arabic language Website, said Monday evening.

“Al Qaeda in Iraq is not in the same level of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. These last two have not yet decided on whether to support Zawahiri or not because he is not a Saudi and because there are some old conflicts with the Zawahiri-led Egyptian wing in Al Qaeda,” Mr. Ismail said.

“Besides, Zawahiri was the one who appointed Abu Hamza Al Muhajir and Abu Ayyub Al Masri [both are Egyptians] to lead Al Qaeda in Iraq after the killing of its top leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in June 2006,” Mr. Ismail added.

Documents released by the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks Website suggested divisions within Al Qaeda. According to the documents, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11, 2011 terror attacks, was warned by a senior Al Qaeda military commander not to kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and that he should be “freed.” But the American was killed anyway.

“A senior Al Qaeda military commander strongly warned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed not to kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, cautioning him it would not be wise to murder Pearl...” one report said.

Quoting US military documents posted by WikiLeaks, the report said Mohammed told his US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay that he cut off Pearl’s head anyway.

Former top Al Qaeda military commander Sayfal-Adl was “outspoken in cautioning Mohammed against killing the reporter,” the report said.

Mohammed, however, turned for guidance to another Al Qaeda leader, identified as Sharif Al Masri, the group’s chief financial officer, and the two of them “disagreed with Adl on this point.”
Next, “Pearl was taken to the house of Al Qaeda’s finance chief in Pakistan, Saud Memon, and murdered” there.

(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected])