Help Wanted: al-Qaida seeks new number two

Stephen Elliott | Contributor

After the death of al-Qaida Number 2 Abu Yahya al-Libi in a Predator drone attack Monday, the group is searching for a new deputy to leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Counterterrorism experts have identified a group of at least five current al-Qaida operatives likely to be selected to take over for Abu Yahya. MSNBC reported Friday that three of the five are former US residents and one is an American citizen.

An anonymous U.S. official and Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, both believe that none of the five candidates possesses the skill and experience that Abu Yahya and his predecessor Abu Atiyah had.

At the time of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of Navy SEALS on May 1, 2011, there were five al-Qaida operatives believed to be possible successors to the longtime leader. Since bin Laden’s death, the U.S. has killed four of those potential successors. The only one still alive is the current leader of al-Qaida, al-Zawahiri.

Adam Gadahn, an American who last year famously called for Muslims to begin killing Americans indiscriminately, is one of the operatives believed to be on the current short list to succeed Abu Yahya. Investigators found correspondence between the 33-year-old American and bin Laden in the 9/11 mastermind’s compound after his death. Two other former U.S. residents are also among the five.

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