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Egyptian surgeon appointed new leader of al-Qaeda

by Jorge Hernandez on June 16, 2011

Ayman al-Zawahiri is a 59-year-old Egyptian surgeon who has just been appointed as the leader of al-Qaeda, a position left vacant by the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this year, according to a new report from the Telegraph.

Al-Zawahiri has honored bin Laden in a video that was posted online. He was the founder of the Islamic Jihad in Egypt, which in 1998 joined forces with al-Qaeda.

A senior analyst at the Quilliam Foundation Noman Benotman spoke with the news source about the implications of Al-Zawahiri's appointment and why it took so long for a formal replacement of bin Laden to be announced.

"[I]t is surprising that al-Qaeda took such a long time to announce Zawahiri as the group’s new leader. This is a sign that there may have been disputes and conflicts within al-Qaeda, including over his leadership, that Zawahiri needed to resolve before formally taking over," Benotman told the news source.

He went on to say that Zawahiri will most likely begin to "to try to decontaminate the group’s reputation in the Muslim world. Ever since the Iraq war, al-Qaeda has been mistrusted by many Muslims and even by other hardline Islamist groups for its killing of Muslim civilians. Zawahiri’s first priority will be to restore the al-Qaeda brand."

Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May of this year, almost ten years after the events of 9/11 that killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil.

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