April 29, 2012
The Associated Press
On May 2, 2011, Navy SEALs shot and killed al-Qaida leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It was a raid made especially daring by the fact that there was only a 50-50 chance the terrorist leader was there. After his death, these are five of the top al-Qaida leaders who pose a clear and continuing threat of an attack within the U.S., according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorist officials.
Ayman al-Zawahri - Egyptian cleric Ayman al-Zawahri took over the organization, after Osama bin Laden's killing last year by Navy SEALs. Presumed hiding in Pakistan, Zawahri has released a near-record number of propaganda videos since the bin Laden raid, exhorting followers to violence.
Abu Yahia al-Libi - The Libyan militant, as his name implies, is now the group's de facto No. 2 moving up a notch in al-Qaida hierarchy after the bin Laden raid. A key al-Qaida propagandist whose video appearances outnumber leader Zawahri, he escaped a high-security U.S. prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2005.
Mullah Mohammed Omar - Leader of the Taliban, Afghan Mullah Omar has sheltered al-Qaida during the Taliban rule and since. Thought to be hiding in Quetta, Pakistan, Omar continues to command the militant forces who work together with al-Qaida, responsible for killing some 1,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001.
Nasser al-Wahishi - Once Osama bin Laden's aide-de-camp, Wahishi commands Yemeni affiliate al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the group U.S. counterterrorist officials warn is most capable of launching an attack on U.S. soil. AQAP has established a de facto safe haven in southern Yemen, beating back Yemeni forces that have been consumed with fighting a tribal and political revolt in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri - Chief bombmaker for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, responsible for building the underwear bomb used to try to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas 2009 and the printer-cartridge bombs intercepted in U.S.-bound cargo planes a year later. U.S. intelligence officials say he has resurfaced recently in Yemen, after months in hiding following the death by drone strike of American-born firebrand AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last fall.