Al-Qaida Chooses New Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian eye doctor who long served as Osama bin Laden's deputy, has been officially chosen as al-Qaida's new leader. Zawahiri was already the group's operational commander and main spokesman, and he was widely expected to succeed Osama bin Laden. Some al-Qaida members have complained that Zawahiri is uninspiring and divisive as a leader, and terrorism experts say he will need to demonstrate that he can direct the terror network as skillfully as bin Laden did.
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Al-Qaida Chooses New Leader

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Al-Qaida Chooses New Leader

Al-Qaida Chooses New Leader

Al-Qaida Chooses New Leader

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Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian eye doctor who long served as Osama bin Laden's deputy, has been officially chosen as al-Qaida's new leader. Zawahiri was already the group's operational commander and main spokesman, and he was widely expected to succeed Osama bin Laden. Some al-Qaida members have complained that Zawahiri is uninspiring and divisive as a leader, and terrorism experts say he will need to demonstrate that he can direct the terror network as skillfully as bin Laden did.

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But as NPR's Tom Gjelten reports, six weeks have passed since bin Laden was killed, and some experts wonder if the delay in naming a new leader means that Zawahiri faced some competition.

TOM GJELTEN: As the official number two, Zawahiri was set to take over Al-Qaida after bin Laden's death, but his selection had to be ratified by the group's leadership council. Zawahiri may even have felt the need to campaign for the position.

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AYMAN AL: (Foreign language spoken)

GJELTEN: In any case, Zawahiri does now have al-Qaida's official backing. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made that point today at the Pentagon.

ROBERT GATES: I think he's got some challenges, but I think it's a reminder that they are still out there, and we still need to keep after them.

GJELTEN: One question is whether Zawahiri will be a different kind of al-Qaida leader than bin Laden was. Terrorism expert Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution notes that he's more of an ideologue - writing books and making lots of public statements - whereas bin Laden kept a fairly low profile.

BRUCE RIEDEL: Zawahiri is probably someone we're going to hear from more. But while he is a thinker, it's a mistake to assume he's not also a doer. This is a man who's been involved in a lot of nasty terrorist planning. So he's willing to mix it up and get right in there. And I think it would be a mistake to underestimate this guy.

GJELTEN: Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

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