Al Qaeda may have lost its founder Osama bin Laden, but his death will not deter the outfit's terror activities. Ayman al-Zawahri, the second-in-command, will now take over the reins of the Al Qaeda and he will backed by the one-eyed Ilyas Kashmiri and the dreaded Baddaruddin Haqqani, reports Vicky Nanjappa.
With Osama bin Laden gone, the question is who will succeed him. Indian Intelligence agencies say that Al Qaeda already has structure in place and this was done a couple of years back when bin Laden took a back seat owing to health reasons. The most obvious choice to replace him is Ayman al-Zawahri, who has been holding the Number 2 position in the Al Qaeda for the years now.
An Egyptian national and a surgeon by profession, Zawahri will be the face of the Al Qaeda while Ilyas Kashmiri and Baddaruddin Haqqani will head the operational structure of the outfit.
While Laden was forced to maintain a low profile due to health concerns, Zawahri became the face of the outfit conveying messages of jihad via videotapes. A trusted aide of bin Laden, he has been functioning as the chief of the organisational wing of the Al Qaeda.
Bin Laden and Zawahri first met in 1980 in Peshawar. They were fighting for the came cause -- garnering support against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Zawahri practiced medicine for two years after he finished his studies in 1974 and soon after turned to jihad. He started his first terror operation in Afghanistan against Soviet troops. He then joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and was part of the operation, which assassinated President Anwar Sadat in the year 1981.
Over the years, Zawahri has become a key figure. The name got a face after he appeared in a video sent post 9/11 explaining why the attacks were necessary. Recently, he sent out a strong message to fight the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Libya.
Apart from Zawahri, Kashmiri, who took over as the chief of Al Qaeda's 313 Brigade, is also expected to play a big role in the operations of the outfit. The Intelligence Bureau says that the Al Qaeda has already split into small cells to ensure that in case of any eventuality, the operations of the outfit are not affected.
Kashmiri will continue to rally his forces in Afghanistan region and has already made it clear that his prime target would be the US troops. He had a fallout with the Inter-Services Intelligence, who asked him to stay away from Afghanistan and focus his attention on India. However, he is now expected to continue his battle in Afghanistan with more vigour to avenge the death of bin Laden.
Sharing the mantle with Kashmiri is Badaruddin Haqqani, one of the sons of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of the Afghan Taliban. The Al Qaeda has strengthened ties with Haqqani network in order to groom alternate leaders.
While the Haqqani network would continue is activities in Afghanistan, it will simultaneously focus on Kashmir. Sources say that bin Laden always maintained that Kashmir was the focal point in their battle.
Under the Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network over 26,000 youth have been recruited and according to intelligence sources they are all set to wreak havoc in India.
Image: A still image taken from al-Jazeera television archive video footage shows top Bin Laden aide Ayman al-Zawahri | Photograph: al-Jazeera Television/Reuters