Power struggle: A rift at the top of Al Qaeda?

If confirmed the appointment of al-Adel is a major blow to Bin Laden’s close associate Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian extremist who has long been seen as the group’s number two and key strategist.

Al-Zawahiri is reported to have been given the important, and usually shortlived, role of director of external or international operations for the group. This would be something of a demotion for a man who was Bin Laden’s closest associate and a major figure in his own right.

It could provide the first evidence of a major split within militant ranks. Senior al-Qaida-affiliated extremists in both Iraq and Yemen have already pledged their support for al-Zawahiri, who is 59 and among the oldest contenders for the top position, and may not accept the leadership of al-Adel, even as an interim measure…

According to Evan Kohlmann, an American specialist in jihadi forums on the internet, senior members on top-tier al-Qaida web forums already see al-Zawahiri as leader of al-Qaida.

Kohlmann reported that some extremists had begun calling al-Qaida “jund al-Ayman” which means “soldiers of Ayman [al-Zawahiri]”.