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Al-Qaida inner circle

Al-Qaida inner circle

Osama bin Laden's relationship with the prominent figures in global terrorism over the past 10 years


Osama bin Laden

The Saudi-born al-Qaida leader became the world's most-wanted man after the Sept. 11 attacks, but evaded capture for almost 10 years.

Status: Deceased


Ayman al-Zawahri

A veteran leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, tortured and jailed in his native Egypt. A trained doctor, Zawahri saw how bin Laden's charisma and contacts could complement his own strategic understanding. A difficult relationship had lasted a decade and a half. Always much more than bin Laden's deputy and now the obvious candidate for leader. However, he is almost 60 and out of touch.

Status: Alive

Location: unknown

the logistian

Abu Zubaydah

A key logistic organizer, though his exact role may have been exaggerated. Alleged to have been a loyal bin Laden follower but not leadership material.

Status: Captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in March 2002

Location: Guantanamo Bay


Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi

Kurdish in origin and a trusted, capable lieutenant for bin Laden. Played a critical role in a range of UK-based plots and others elsewhere. Considered a major loss for al-Qaida.

Status: Arrested on the Iranian border in 2007, having been dispatched by bin Laden to resurrect al-Qaida in Iraq.

Location: Guantanamo Bay


Abu Farraj al-Libby

Steady, capable and unassuming. Said to have run external operations for bin Laden from 2003 until his arrest.

Status: Captured in Mardan, Pakistan, in 2005.

Location: Guantanamo Bay


Mohammed Atef

Ran military operations for al-Qaida in the late 1990s. Trusted by bin Laden and seen as competent and ruthless.

Status: Deceased. He was killed in a missile strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001.

the butcher

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

The Jordanian leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. An extremely violent former street thug who made his name with attacks on Shia Iraqis and videotaped beheadings. Zarqawi eventually alienated the Sunni tribes he depended on for security. An always tense relationship with the al-Qaida hard-core deteriorated badly.

Status: Deceased. He was killed during an American bombing in 2006.

the operator

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

The alleged architect of Sept. 11 and a freelance terrorist operator. He is considered conceited, capable, charismatic. No great friend of bin Laden — he refused to swear a loyalty oath to him — but one of the most effective militant organizers around.

Status: Captured in 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Location: Guantanamo Bay

the strategist

Abu Musab al-Suri

One of the key strategists of "leaderless jihad" who did not like or agree with bin Laden. A key influence on militants around the Islamic world, he advocated the decentralization of militant campaigns, hoping to spark a "global intifada."

Status: Captured in 2005 in Pakistan

Location: Syrian prison

the prisoner

Saif al-Adel

A former Egyptian special forces officer. Capable, clever and experienced. Once allegedly close to bin Laden but now out of the picture.

Status: Alive

Location: Iranian prison since 2002

the young star

Abu Yahya al-Libby

In his mid 40s and with a stellar jihadi career behind him, he has been projected as the face of al-Qaida in recent videos aimed at boosting support among the young. Inexperienced and dependent on bin Laden rather than a close associate.

Status: Alive

Location: Unknown

potential successor

Anwar al-Awiaki

A 40-year-old of Yemeni origin, raised in Yemen but born in New Mexico. An English-speaking star of Internet jihad chat rooms. Cited by dozens of aspirant jihadis around the world and given global projection by Inspire magazine, reported to be published by al-Qaida. Unlikely to become leader of al-Qaida, but bin Laden's death gives him a chance of being pre-eminent in radical Islam.

Status: Alive

Location: Unknown

Al-Qaida inner circle

05/02/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:34am]
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