Zawahiri 'best candidate' to succeed Osama: Al-Qaeda commander

Zawahiri 'best candidate' to succeed Osama: Al-Qaeda commander

"Al-Zawahiri is the best candidate and he is the right person to take over. All wings of al-Qaeda would approve of him and all Jihadist movements trust him greatly," said Rashad Mohammad Ismail, widely known as Abu Al-Fida, a top commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

"He (al-Zawahiri) has all the qualifications and experience," Al-Fida was quoted as saying by the English- language newspaper Yemen Times.

59-year-old Zawahiri, an Egyptian Islamic theologian, was longtime deputy of bin Laden. He was the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
Al-Fida said the al-Qaeda's wings and branches are entitled to take a decision on the leadership issue.

The branches include group's units in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in Yemen, as well as the branches in Somalia, Chechnya, etc.

Bin Laden was killed when US special forces carried out a raid on a compound near the Pakistan Military Academy in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2.

Soon after bin Laden's death, controversy raged over his successor with experts speculating that there is an infight within the group for the leadership.Al-Fida said: "it is not a matter of personal meetings to nominate a leader, rather all wings approve of a decision taken by senior Al-Qaeda leaders. Al-Qaeda's wings have to approve of and pledge allegiance to the nominated leader."

He cited the nomination of Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi in place of Abu Musa'b Al-Zaraqawi, following the latter's death. The decision was taken by the branch leadership in Iraq and it was approved by the central leaders.

Al-Fida claimed bin Laden's death will not "have a significant impact on the group, as his influence was symbolic only", the paper said.

"Al-Qaeda has experienced numerous tragic losses before and it was always able to overcome such challenges. Such losses do not weaken... Osama's death would serve to boost and expand the coverage of Jihad," he claimed.

AQAP, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, was formed in January 2009 from a merger of al-Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches.