May 6th, 2011
07:00 PM ET

Inside al Qaeda succession: Who is likely to step up

(CNN) - A statement from al Qaeda on Friday marking the death of Osama bin Laden included renewed warnings of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests around the world and suggested that a process to choose his successor is under way.

"Sheikh Osama didn't build an organization to die when he dies," the message said. It was posted on several jihadist forums known for carrying al Qaeda statements.

The man taking over will most likely be Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian who was al Qaeda's No. 2 under bin Laden.

The bylaws of al Qaeda, recovered by the U.S. military in Afghanistan after September 11, set out clear guidelines on the replacement of bin Laden, requiring the Command, or Shura, Council of al Qaeda to "pledge allegiance to the deputy emir and elect him as emir in the event that the emir dies or is captured and there is no hope for his liberation."

It would be risky for al Qaeda's on-the-run leadership to assemble a meeting of its Shura Council. They may therefore choose to shortcut some of the required proceedings.

Analysts expect that al Qaeda may choose to announce the elevation of al-Zawahiri through a written statement to avoid having him take the security risk of recording a statement. But they also expect that at some point, al Qaeda's media arm, As-Sahab, will release a video to mark bin Laden's death for maximum propaganda impact, one that could feature a "martyrdom" video recorded by bin Laden to encourage followers.

The As-Sahab videotape would probably include a message from al Qaeda's new leader.


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Osama bin Laden
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