Osama, Zawahiri parted ways six years ago: US media report

 "They had parted ways some six years ago," with bin Laden being sidelined because he no longer had the funds to support al-Qaeda operations and that his popularity in the terror network was slipping, a Pakistani official was quoted as saying by Wall Street Journal.

He said bin Laden had been "marginalised" by Zawahiri, who helped bin Laden found al Qaeda in 1988 and led its operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Portraying bin Laden as sidelined within al Qaeda could help Pakistan's reputation in the aftermath of his death by implying that he had little to do with al Qaeda or its recent attacks—suggesting that Pakistan's failure to find him wasn't such a significant lapse.

Pakistani officials have expressed embarrassment that the US found bin Laden in Pakistan and are probing the intelligence failure, the Wall Street Journal reported.
US officials say they have not heard of a split between the two men.

"Parted ways? I don't think so," said one US counter terrorism official. "I have not seen anything like that" in intelligence reports.

US forces had annihilated bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 40 miles outside Islamabad.

Another US official familiar with the intelligence said there was strong evidence, however, to support the contention that bin Laden had money problems. "We do know funding has been an issue," the official said.

Zawahiri has long been viewed as al Qaeda's chief ideologue and operational commander, with bin Laden seen as the "mastermind" and inspiration of the organisation with a much less active day-to-day role.

Tensions between bin Laden and Zawahiri rose around 2005 after the US-led invasion of Iraq prompted the creation of a new affiliate group, al Qaeda in Iraq, led by a bloodthirsty Jordanian named Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

The Iraqi affiliate promptly unleashed a brutal campaign against Shiites in Iraq, including attacks on Shiite mosques, which horrified many Iraqis and undermined al Qaeda's efforts to win over the local population. That backlash eventually led to the so-called Sunni Awakening that helped US forces regain the upper hand in many Iraqi provinces.

A rift could help explain why bin Laden moved to the compound in Abbottabad, 40 miles from Pakistan's capital, where he was killed in a raid by US forces in the early hours of Monday.

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