Washington, May 1 (ANI): The US State Department has said that al Qaeda's No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged as the terrorist outfits operational leader, having a similar 25 million dollars prize money on his head as Osama bin Laden.
Despite years of the Bush administration claims that Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor turned Osama bin Laden deputy, was on the lam with his boss and unable to exert control, this was not true according to the State Department report.
"Al Qaeda has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities" in Pakistan's tribal safe haven on the Afghan border, replaced lost lieutenants and achieved "the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri," the annual Country Reports on Terrorism said.
"Although bin Laden remains the group's ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as al Qaeda's strategic and operational planner," the Daily News quoted the report, as saying
The new assessment wasn't a surprise to terror experts, since Zawahiri put out 12 audio and video messages last year and four this year, including one last week.
"As important as it is to neutralize al Qaeda's top leaders, you also have to maintain an unblinking focus on disrupting its operations," said Kenneth Wainstein, a top George W. Bush homeland security adviser now with the O'Melveny and Myers law firm. (ANI)