A week after the death of Osama bin Laden, his longtime deputy is considered the front-runner to succeed the iconic al Qaeda founder.
But uprisings in the Middle East and changing dynamics within the group could point to another scenario: a decision not to appoint anyone at all to replace the world’s most-wanted terrorist.
Replacing bin Laden, who founded al Qaeda more than two decades ago and masterminded 9/11, may be no easy task. Analysts say the choice will likely depend on how the terror organisation views its goals and priorities in the post-bin Laden age.
“You almost have to start with the question of ‘Can he be replaced?’ said Lt Col Reid Sawyer, the director of Countering Terrorism Center.
Whether al Qaeda “even need name an ‘official’ new leader is uncertain,” wrote Rita Katz and Josh Devon in a report by Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist web traffic.
If al Qaeda does pick a successor, analysts said Ayman al-Zawahri, 59, is the most likely choice because he was bin Laden’s longtime deputy and has far more experience than younger candidates.
Others in the fray include Abu Yahia al-Libi, al Qaeda’s Afghanistan commander, Saif al-Adel and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Yemen-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, is considered a long-shot at best.