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Bin Laden’s successor to face financing crisis – Think Tank | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Observers believe that Bin Laden’s death will not weaken the jihadist movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere in the world; however Al Qaeda was a Bin Laden construct, he was behind the September 11 attacks, whilst all members of Al Qaeda pledged their allegiance to Osama Bin Laden the man, rather than to the organization or to any specific ideology. In this regard, Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group [Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya al-Muqatilah bi Libya – LIFG], stressed that there are huge problems within the Al Qaeda organization following Osama Bin Laden’s death. Benotman, who today is a Senior Analyst (Strategic Communications) at the London-based anti-Islamist think tank Quilliam, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the financial support that was being provided to Al Qaeda, from figures in the Gulf and Pakistan, was being provided due to trust and confidence in Bin Laden, and that the financial aid may dry up following the death of the Al Qaeda leader. He added “with the death of Bin Laden, Al Qaeda is lacking the force of a commander to inspire the disparate groups that are connected to the organizations in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Benotman also told Asharq Al-Al-Awsat that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden’s deputy leader, was the “mastermind” behind Osama Bin Laden, describing the Egyptian jihadist as being “the brains” of Al Qaeda. He also acknowledged that the strategic turning point in the history of Al Qaeda, namely the targeting of the US as the great enemy, rather than the Middle East regimes, represented a blow to al-Zawahiri, who wanted to overthrow the Egyptian government. According to Benotman, Bin Laden influenced al-Zawahiri’s ideology in this regard, telling him “forget the closest enemies [the Middle East governments], and instead put your sights on the main enemy, and that is the United States.”

As for who could succeed Bin Laden in leading Al Qaeda, Benotman played down the US assertions that Ilyas al-Kashmiri was a major contender, saying that “whoever put forward the name Ilyas al-Kashmiri has no genuine knowledge about the Al Qaeda organization.” One US official, talking to US network NBC, said that “his [Kashmiri] star has been on the rise for the last several years…he would have to be on the Al Qaeda shortlist.”

Benotman told Asharq Al-Awsat that “most likely, al-Zawahiri will succeed Bin Laden as leader of the Al Qaeda organization, which is currently facing the threat of fragmentation, however he will try to win over the different factions, including Al Qaeda in Yemen, where Anwar al-Awlaki is present and can unite the organization.”

Other fundamentalist sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that there is a possibility that Ayman al-Zawahiri could be hiding in a Pakistani city, in the same manner that Osama Bin Laden was discovered hiding out in Abbottabad, not far from the Pakistani capital.