Colombo, August 1 (newsin.asia): In a note in the journal of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore dated July 15, 2011, the Sri Lankan expert on terrorism, Dr.Rohan Gunaratna, had explained the role that the assassinated Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri was to play in the Al Qaeda.
Here is what Dr.Gunaratna said: Since the establishment of Al Qaeda in 1988 under the banner of the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and Jews”, Ayman al Zawahiri had expanded the range of targets to include “tools to fight Islam” used by the West, such as the United Nations, rulers of Muslim nations, international relief agencies as well as multinational corporations and communications systems and media organizations.
Zawahiri’s 2001 tract formed the blueprint for Al Qaeda’s global campaign. Indeed it was Zawahiri who masterminded the creation of Al Qaeda al Jihad with the merging in July 2001 of the rudimentary Al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad which he had led from the 1970s.
After several years in Russian and Egyptian prisons, Zawahiri left for Saudi Arabia in 1985 and then relocated to Pakistan in 1987.
Within Al Qaeda there were differences in strategy. While Osama’s mentor Abdullah Azzam wanted to fight the occupiers of Muslim lands, Zawahiri was determined to use Al Qaeda reserves to attack “false Muslim rulers and corrupt Muslim regimes”.
Under Zawahiri’s influence, Al Qaeda evolved from a guerilla group fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan to a terrorist group attacking non-military targets.
After Azzam’s death in November 1989, Zawahiri consolidated his control over the assets of Al Qaeda and filled its most important positions with other Egyptians including the founding members of Al Qaeda who became its successive military chiefs – Mohamed Atef a.k.a. Abu Hafs al-Masri and Ali al Rashid alias Abu Ubaydah al- Banshiri. Consequently, over half of the 10-member Shura Council, the organization’s top decision-making body, have been Egyptians; they headed its military, intelligence, political, information, religious and administration and finance committees.
Zawahiri himself was a prolific communicator turning out propaganda via electronic media to reach out to the global Muslim community. A Cairo-trained medical doctor, Zawahiri was well-read, well-travelled, ideologically strong and operationally savvy. Six years older than Osama, he was said to be secretive, goal-oriented, systematic and forward-thinking – attributes which equip him to influence the landscape of terrorism. Unlike the puritanical and archaic Osama, Zawahiri was to shape Al Qaeda into a more modern organization, based on the latest management principles and using new technology.
Though born into a wealthy family and maintaining the family tradition of studying medicine, Zawahiri dedicated his life to politics and formed a cell of the EIJ when only 16 and moved up the ranks to guide the EIJ a decade before joining Al Qaeda. Zawahiri’s worldview had been moulded by the trials and tribulations he underwent from torture and imprisonment in Egypt and the Soviet Union to the recurring losses of colleagues, friends and family.
After Osama’s death, Al Qaeda had not collapsed. Instead, it continued to be a lethal organization with Zawahiri as its leader. A dozen terrorist and insurgent groups from Africa to West Asia had pledged their allegiance to Zawahiri and reaffirmed their partnership with Al Qaeda. They included the Harakat al Shabaab group of Somalia. Though its strength on the Afghan-Pakistan border numbered a few hundred fighters it relied upon its associate groups to conduct operations.
In Pakistan, the Tarek e Taliban, the group closest to Al Qaeda, had unleashed several attacks on civilian, military and security targets in retaliation for the death of Osama. They signalled that Al Qaeda under Zawahiri had embarked on a new campaign of terror with a vengeance.
About the Author
Rohan Gunaratna was Professor of Security Studies and Head, Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. This is an edited version of an article that appeared in The National Interest.
The original of the above note could be seen at: https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/rsis/1577-al-qaeda-under-ayman-al-zawahi/?doing_wp_cron=1658331385.7289590835571289062500#.YuiZEbdBzIV