U.S. Is on Alert for Hastened Plots
Zawahiri, bin Laden's Second-in-Command, Struggles to Keep Group Relevant Amid Popular Uprisings
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Osama bin Laden's second-in-command and other al Qaeda leaders may try to accelerate plots in the works to prove the terror network is still potent following its leader's death, officials said.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is widely considered even more radical than bin Laden, but he is struggling to keep al Qaeda relevant at a time of popular uprisings inspired by others throughout the Arab world.
Mr. Zawahiri, a 59-year-old Egyptian doctor and an Islamic insurgent since the age of 15, has long served as al Qaeda's chief ideologue and its operational leader since helping create the terror outfit 1988.
Though lacking bin Laden's fortune and charisma, Mr. Zawahiri "has been absolutely pivotal to al Qaeda's strategy, development and evolution," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "By no means are we dealing with a lightweight. He talks the talk and walks the walk."