Friday, January 13, 2006

Al Qaeda's #2, al-Zawahiri, may be dead

At CNN, David Ensor is reporting that a CIA airstrike on a building in a remote Pakistani village near the Afghan border may have killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's long-time friend and doctor, and one of the key planners of 9/11.

Obviously, the report awaits official confirmation -- one way or the other.

For now, I think Juan Cole has it right:

I am going to hold off any comment about the possibility of Zawahiri being dead. There have been other strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions against supposedly big fish of al-Qaeda that have turned out to be no such thing. This time the leaks seem also to come from Washington counter-terrorism sources, so maybe there is something to them. On the other hand, the US intelligence people may have decided that Zawahiri has been making too much noise and that starting a rumor that he may have been killed will hurt his charisma at least in the short term.

This world is murky.

It is indeed.

Al Qaeda, and Islamist terrorism generally, will continue with or without Zawahiri. And, as a martyr, he could be even more dangerous dead than alive. But surely he as much as anyone is someone we could do without. Let's hope the report is true.

See also The Counterterrorism Blog and In the Bullpen.

Needless to say, more to follow.

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