Ayman Al-Zawahiri, co-founder of Al-Qaeda along with Osama bin Laden in 1988 in Pakistan’s Peshawar, is reported to be dead.
An Arab News report claims that Al-Zawahiri died in Afghanistan a month ago due to natural causes.
The dreaded organization is scrambling to fill the top as two other senior commanders, tipped to take over, were recently killed.
Hamza bin Laden, a son of bin Laden, was killed in a US counter-terrorism operation last year, according to the White House.
The New York Times in a report last week stated that Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah, aka Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was secretly killed in Iran’s Tehran in August by two Israeli operatives.
An Egyptian national, 69-year-old Zawahiri was last seen in a video during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year two months ago. The 9/11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist strikes by the Al-Qaeda in the United States on 11 September 2001.
The killing of Laden, a Saudi, in a US operation in Pakistan in 2011 left the beleaguered group in the clutches of Zawahiri, but experts say he did not possess Laden’s ability to rally Islamic radicals from around the world.
Rita Katz, director of the jihadist media monitor SITE, cited unconfirmed reports to speculate Zawahiri had died.
“It is very typical of Al-Qaeda to not publish news about the death of its leaders in a timely manner,” she said, according to news agency AFP.
Who’s next? Many experts point towards one person to take over the mantle – Saif al-Adel, a former lieutenant-colonel in the Egyptian armed forces, who then joined the Egyptian jihadist movement back in the 1980s.
Adel was arrested and later released, following which he ended up in Afghanistan – the base for Laden and Zawahiri, eventually joining the Al-Qaeda.