Recent losses in ranks weaken al-Qaeda's capabilities

Many of al-Qaeda's top leaders, including Osama bin Laden (r), have been killed since this photo was taken in 2003. [Reuters/al-Jazeera Television]

Many of al-Qaeda's top leaders, including Osama bin Laden (r), have been killed since this photo was taken in 2003. [Reuters/al-Jazeera Television]

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During the past five months, al-Qaeda has lost several prominent leaders, including its founder Osama bin Laden who was killed in May. The elimination of those leaders is depriving bin Laden's successor, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, of a core group who had acquired experience in combat operations and al-Qaeda's secret activities.

The elimination of veteran leaders does not mean al-Qaeda no longer poses a threat. However, al-Zawahiri is in an unenviable position because he now leads an organisation depleted of his contemporaries of veteran founding members. Those members are now either dead, in prison, or have turned against the organisation and joined the ranks of the jihadists who have issued reviews renouncing bloodshed and extremism in the interpretation of jihad.

Al-Qaeda's younger generation consists of young members who lack experience in the arts of combat and guerilla warfare. This observation can be deduced from the failure of al-Qaeda's General Command in the Afghan - Pakistan border area to carry out any major operation in recent years. In contrast, al-Qaeda affiliates, notably the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula attempted to carry out attacks worldwide. Their plans included targeting passenger planes such as the attempted bombing of an American passenger jet travelling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Al-Qaeda did not carry out attacks on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001 attacks despite concerns it was planning bombings in the United States, specifically in New York and Washington. It is not clear whether that was the result of security measures that were implemented to prevent them or if it were a false alarm and there were no planned attacks.

Whatever the reason was, al-Qaeda's failure to carry out more attacks is linked to the continuous pressure being applied on its hideouts in Pakistan's tribal areas which has stripped it of dozens of its senior leaders and left it in a state that, should it continue, threatens to turn al-Qaeda into a marginal group with no influence on events in the world.

Abu Hafs al-Shahri was trusted by bin Laden

Al-Qaeda suffered its most recent loss on September 11th when the Saudi national Abu Hafs al-Shahri was killed in a drone strike in the Pakistani region of Waziristan, according to reports published in international media, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

Saudi media outlets also confirmed the news. Al-Hayat reported that al-Shahri, whose full name is Osama Hamoud al-Shahri, was a member of bin Laden's "personal security detail". He was ranked 11th on a list of the 85 most wanted individuals issued by Saudi officials for suspicion of involvement in terrorism. His name also appears on a second most-wanted list in Saudi Arabia known as the "list of 36".

Al-Hayat reported that al-Shahri's mother received a telephone call from a relative of her son's wife to inform her that her son died in an air strike and that "they were able to bury him there." It is believed he was killed in Mir Ali in North Waziristan, the site of the only pilot-less drone strike recorded there in recent days, according to a Reuters report. Al-Hayat reported that his family held funeral services for him in Riyadh.

Al-Shahri was significant not just because he was trusted by bin Laden and served as his body guard, but because he was a member of the organisation's young generation who joined before the September 11th, 2001 attacks and gained experience that probably qualified him for senior positions in al-Qaeda.

He reportedly held a leadership position in al-Qaeda as a co-ordinator between the organisation's central leadership in Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban. His death comes days after al-Qaeda lost another leader, Younis al-Mauritani, who last year was tied to plots the organisation was allegedly planning in European countries. Al-Mauritani was reportedly arrested in a joint Pakistani-American operation in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Al-Shahri's death occurred nearly a month after the killing of another leader, Atiyah Abdul Rahman, a Libyan, who was believed to be al-Qaeda's deputy leader, second in command only to al-Zawahiri. A few months ago, Pakistani leader Ilyas Kashmiri, who was suspected of working closely with al-Qaeda, was also killed.

All the losses in al-Qaeda's ranks will force al-Zawahiri, to make a difficult position. He does not want to appear incapable of carrying out attacks to avenge bin Laden's death or be seen as having failed to act on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, but he knows that al-Qaeda is facing significant pressure that is reducing its capabilities and eliminating its leaders before they are able to carry out new attacks and before they have an opportunity to train their successors.

In light of its depleted ranks, al-Qaeda faces the prospect of becoming a marginal organisation that no one listens to or has any interest in joining.

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  • READER COMMENTS

    عواد علي

    2011-12-1

    The scarcity of financial resources is responsible for the weakness of al-Qaeda. In fact, there are not parties that support them to carry out their despicable criminal acts. Indeed, they have carried out a lot of tragedies through murder and criminal acts against the innocent from all regions whether they are Muslims or Christians. God the Almighty will punish them for the criminal acts which they have carried out. God will respond to the prayers of the inhabitants and their invocations against any despicable terrorist who is working on murdering and wreaking havoc on the land of God the Almighty.

  • محمود البشبيشي

    2011-11-7

    It is like soap, which cleans itself in the water to remove the dirt.

  • محمد الخطيرى

    2011-11-6

    Al-Qaeda is preparing for a large-scale operation like the invasions of New York and Manhattan on 9/11/2001. So, wait for it.

  • ابو عبدالله

    2011-11-4

    He is a follower of his grandfather, Mohamed ibn Abdel Wahhab. It is the bombing takfiri current. They are callers of feuds. The Messenger of God called them the Horn of Satan.

  • محمدعطية

    2011-11-3

    God be with you, my brother. This is the right thing to do.

  • احمد

    2011-11-2

    O God! Enable me to see the Truth as Truth and give me the ability to follow it. And enable me to see the falsehood as false and give me the ability to refrain from it.

  • ابو انس

    2011-11-2

    Peace be upon you…. I think that Al-Qaeda has failed and it will fail more and more. Do you know why? Because it deviated from the right path and opted for extremism. Hence, it did not comply with the Quran and the Sunnah.

  • محمدالشريف

    2011-11-2

    One may utter a word irresponsibly, which throws him in Hell for seventy autumns! I call on those who raise doubts about the mujahidin and sheikh Osama bin Laden and all the resistant leaders to fear God, because they have left the comfortable life for us and accepted to live in the deserts for the sake of God. O God! I have conveyed the message. O God! Bear witness.

  • antikaaaaaaaaaa

    2011-11-1

    Can you imagine the world without fighting the US and the crusaders’ arrogance at the hands of Al-Qaeda and our Mujahideen sheikhs? Can you imagine the Zionist aggression without the resistance of Hamas and Hezbollah? O God! Provide us with martyrdom at the gates of Jerusalem and make me a companion of the righteous people and the martyrs.

  • ماجد ابو النصر

    2011-10-31

    To the immortal Paradise, God Willing!

  • محمد مهدي

    2011-10-31

    Young people, you should abide by the teachings of your prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Beware of following feuds, dissension and sectarian discrimination, because those were the enemies of God and His Prophet. Your honorable messenger warned you. Follow the righteous predecessors. I say it from the bottom of my heart: “It is only through unity that you defeat the adversaries.”

  • مجعص الهقط

    2011-10-31

    God willing! The victory is near!

  • معتز

    2011-10-31

    The Al-Qaeda organization is an American Israeli hand!

  • راغب قاصد

    2011-10-29

    Thanks to God, we have noticed that the al-Qaeda terrorist group is heading toward the abyss and its final doom. Al-Qaeda has reached the end, whether or not they appointed this mean criminal Al-Zawahiri, after the former leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a planned operation. The murder of Osama bin Laden dealt a deathblow to the organization, which kills innocent civilians in many countries and commits many crimes against the innocent people. Al-Zawahiri will find himself helpless, and he will never succeed in restoring the former strength of the al-Qaeda terrorist group through specific terrorist operations. That is because he has lost all the experienced military commanders of this terrorist organization. Hence, al-Qaeda has lost its masterminds and Al-Zawahiri is alone today with the devil only. He has no power today, because all people hate al-Qaeda and know the reality of this mean organization, which is based on killing innocent people and shedding their blood.

  • عطا

    2011-10-28

    My brothers, why do you shut your eyes to the facts…? Has not anyone of you asked himself why we have all these tensions and problems in the Muslim areas? Why? Is there no Muslim authority or institution that would stand up firmly and properly to the policy of the West, using a counter policy? Of course there are no such institutions because Islam is so divided, to the point that it fights itself. It is not brave to brag about principles and values; you should rather apply them. What is the point of Islam if it is divided and has no aspirations for the future; what is the point if it chooses the language of arms instead of unity and politicization of circumstances according to necessity? Governments of Islamic origin kill and rob their people, while the governments of infidels want the interest of their people. They deal with everybody for the well-being of the society. So, what is the point of the religious and sectarian pretension that we have? Thanks!

  • تغريد

    2011-10-27

    The so-called Al-Qaeda is no more than an organization that fights Islam. Their crimes in Iraq included murder and kidnapping, which proves that it is a US and Iranian-politicized terrorist organization, which is used to tarnish the image of Islam.

  • رفعت العراقى

    2011-10-27

    I ask God, the Owner of the Great Throne, to please all Muslims and provide us with victory over the enemies of the religion through your bounty. O God! Have mercy upon the dead Muslims by your generosity. O God! Send peace and blessings upon the Prophet, peace be upon him, his family and companions. We ask God to have mercy upon Abu Bakr, Umar, Othman and Ali, may God be pleased with them. Please supplicate for me to be cured. May God bless you. Amen

  • إبراهيم فتحس

    2011-10-27

    We ask God to support the mujahidin everywhere and I ask God to have mercy upon brother Osama bin Laden and make him the companion of the martyrs and righteous people. O God! Support your people and allies. Amen.

  • الفاروق

    2011-10-26

    May God give victory to Islam and Muslims all over the world! We seek refuge with God from those who claim to be wise in religion.

  • محمد

    2011-10-25

    Al-Qaeda is a vampire that has only given Islam the blood of innocent people. Whoever wants to know the financial sources of al-Qaeda, let him go to the drug farms in Afghanistan.

  • صبرى فكرى سليمان

    2011-10-25

    Islam is a religion of kindness, not slaughtering and killing. If you, my dear Muslim brother, return to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his companions, you will not find them doing any of the things that the al-Qaeda organization is doing. Al-Qaeda defames the image of Islam in the hearts of people who are interested in embracing Islam. They do not present anything to Islam; they present to the Christians and Jews, who hate Islam, they want to overcome Muslims, so they label them as terrorists. I have a suspicion that their indirect finances are from the Jews or others. If I had the chance, I would debate them. I do not see a need to kill, unless there is a clear attack on the Muslim. I ask them, if you care about Islam this much, why don’t you fight Al-Assad in Syria? He has insulted Islam and Muslims. There is no infidel who has destroyed a minaret or violated the dignity of Muslims in the way he did. The same applies to Abdullah Saleh. Please, understand the religion in the right way. Whoever God wants goodness for, He will increase his knowledge in the Muslim religion.

  • لا نا مت اعين الجبنا

    2011-10-23

    God the Almighty urged the Muslim to perform jihad in many verses in the Quran and warned against reliance on the fancies of this world. The leader of the mujahidin, the Prophet, peace be upon him, also gave the glad tidings to many of his honorable companions, may God be pleased with them, that whoever is killed in the cause of God will have Paradise. Indeed, God and His Messenger, peace be upon him, have said the truth. God has bought the souls of the believers in return for Paradise. Osama bin Laden and the other mujahidin in Afghanistan and the leader Khatab in Chechnya and the believers who joined them in jihad are great men. Yes to Ayman Al-Zawahiri; may God keep him safe. O Muslims, your enemies have despaired of making the Muslims apostatize from their religion, so they worked on making them despair of the mercy and Paradise of God. Therefore, I call on the Muslims to fight the infidels and hope in the mercy and forgiveness of God. Do not allow the slogans of the enemies to mislead you, because they are conspiring against you. The Arab peoples have to be watchful all the time. They have persecuted and tortured their peoples, and eventually they were trodden on by the revolutionaries. Is there anyone who will learn the lessons? The nation that fights in the cause of God can never deprive the mujahidin of the provisions to deter the nation of the infidels. So, do not be stingy and provide your brothers in jihad even with a Dirham, because God will support them with His bounties. Your brothers have revived the rite of jihad in the cause of God and his Messenger. They fight the enemies to win martyrdom or to achieve victory. They have not altered the guidance of the Sunnah, because the true Muslim always believes in the promise of His Lord. God has bought the souls of the Muslims in return for Paradise. Do not go back or leave this way, even if the current is against you. Do not despair, irrespective of your attackers. Always remember that the strong believer is dearer to God the Almighty than the weak one. This is a universal unchangeable norm. Indeed, the labor agonies are painful, but they are inevitable, and ease always comes after hardships. We seek either martyrdom or victory. This is the stance of the strong believer, who holds steadfast to the sharia. Blessed is Osama bin Laden and all the mujahidin who were martyred in the cause of God and His messenger. Congratulations to Khattaab. Congratulations to all the mujahidin who fell as martyrs in the cause of God and to all those who have loved the rite of jihad for the sake of God the Exalted. The deal of the mujahidin is the only successful one, and the liars who believe in anything else will lose. The most important thing is conviction and strong determination, irrespective of the gutturally speakers. He has nothing but a mouth and a tongue like the parrots, who speak about what they do not know. The men have defeated the enemies and made them suffer severe losses on the battlefield. The western political circles only want to compensate all the material losses through their support to the Arab revolutions. 123

  • الحنش

    2011-10-21

    In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

  • مسلمة

    2011-10-21

    May God lead Sheikh al-Zawahri to the best for Islam and Muslims!

  • خالد متولي

    2011-10-21

    Peace be upon you…. I support any state that fights the West, and I support this organization. Do not believe Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and the other channels that fight Islam. Gadhafi is alive and the revolutionaries of NATO will be defeated and go to the dunghill of history, God willing.

  • عبدألستار

    2011-10-18

    I think Osama Bin Laden, his al-Qaeda, his thoughts and followers are losers in the present life and in the hereafter. Islam seeks to enlighten the ears and guide their minds. Almighty God says -what can be translated as-: “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in the way that is best.” -Al-Nahl: 125. Al-Qaeda is trading in death, killing and declaring others infidels, and while on one hand, humanity is racing ahead in scientific fields of medicine, engineering and communications, on the other al-Qaeda is racing to kill the innocent, widow women, orphan children and bereave mothers. This is the religion of Bin Laden and his ill-omened Qaeda.

  • زهير

    2011-10-16

    The terrorist Al Qaeda organization’s leaders are now suffering from great deterioration, fear and anticipation. Those leaders include the cowardly Al Zawahiri, whose end is approaching, as I believe he will be killed soon, especially since he is alone now and he doesn’t have the experience of Bin Laden or the criminal Attiya, who have been killed. The end of the terrorist Al Qaeda organization is very near, as long as targeting its criminal leaders continues.

  • سلمان

    2011-10-16

    May God have mercy on his soul!

  • شحات سلطان

    2011-10-14

    May God accept Sheikh Osama among the martyrs! Osama was a striving Sheikh; he is the defeater of the crusaders. May God bless his soul and settle him in heaven for his Jihad against disbelief and its supporters! I would say to anyone who talks negatively against Sheikh Osama, “Be careful, you are talking about your master, who raised your head high with his Jihad against the enemies of Islam.” I would say to Christians “If Sheikh Osama is dead; all of us would face you like Sheikh Osama.”

  • عبد الله

    2011-10-12

    May God have mercy on Osama and his companions!

  • وجدي ابو شيماء

    2011-10-11

    The recent losses of al-Qaeda is weakening the strength of the organization.

  • o 63 63h o

    2011-10-7

    Hollywood acts and we watch. Bin Laden is one of the leaders produced by Hollywood, just like Ronald Reagan and his likes. How long will Hollywood, which represents the West, display scenarios to us, supported by technologies, and we keep watching? In short, they own the veto right and we own Vimto taste.

  • عبدالله

    2011-10-5

    What would you say about the terrorism of the Arab governments and the Zionist occupation? What would you say about the terrorism of the United States and their agents? What are your religious, detailed, proven replies on every point or matter, with evidence and clarification, so that you have credibility with the people? This is just the nonsense of the Zionist crusaders and enemies, nothing more and nothing less. If Bin Laden is an American cover, as one commenter said, then why do the United States and the countries of aggression fear this man?? Why did Bin Laden kill thousands of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was documented by video shooting? Why would America allow it if he is really an American cover? The nonsense and monotonous talk is pointless, and it will not change reality. If you are honest, present your clear evidence, starting from al-Qaeda’s thinking, with evidence and criticism of every point. We would believe you if you brought evidence, and we would thank you for revealing the falsehood of these Mujahidin and their terrorist acts. Finally, if al-Qaeda was made by America, then who is committing the acts of Jihad, especially at this time of aggression and crime against Muslims? Is being mean and passive part of our nature now? For the last commentator who quoted this verse: “The unbelievers are those who say: 'God is the Messiah, the son of Mary.” -Qur’an: Al-Maidah: 72: Do not lie; the Islam that you cherish is a pointless Islam. It is made in Washington and it will not benefit you in any way. Hahahaha!

  • saad

    2011-10-4

    This is nonsense!

  • ahmed

    2011-10-1

    Osama bin Laden is no more than a cover for the crimes of the USA. The USA carries out terrorist crimes and then accuses Al-Qaeda. This is proved by the fact that the USA invades any state to topple any ruler that does not cooperate with it and installs another, more cooperative one. Guys, the USA has crossed the oceans and seas and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq that has an army that is stronger and larger than Al-Qaeda. The USA controls and dominates the Middle East and the Muslim world. However, it claims that it cannot eliminate Al-Qaeda, which only has some arms that are available to any armed group in the world. Why is the USA incapable of eliminating Al-Qaeda? That is because the USA commits terrorist acts and killings, and then accuses Al-Qaeda of the responsibility for these acts, in order to exonerate itself. In other words, Al-Qaeda is the only group that saves the USA from the scandals.

  • saad

    2011-9-30

    Assalamu alaykum (Peace be upon you)! I call on my brothers to be like the martyr Osama Bin Laden, the man who confused the enemy and achieved victory over them. The strange thing is that the disbelieving Saudi government - yet not so strange as they are dogs and they don’t know or fear Allah - encouraged the west to fight Osama. So, every Muslim should be very careful of those disbelievers who claim to be the Muslim nation, but they are quite the opposite. Listen to the Reform Organization and you will find out some strange facts about them.

  • عامر

    2011-9-29

    This is an organization that falsifies Islam. I am a Christian Arab and I do not allow them to distort the Islam that I know as an Iraqi. We are believers by nature; we know what is right and what is wrong. Religion is one; God, Islam and Christ. What is outside our borders is not religion, because they attacked our homes. Long live Iraq!