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Under the new leadership of Osama bin Laden’s former deputy, al-Qaeda is shifting its emphasis from attacking the United States at home to attacking its interests and outposts abroad, the Wall Street Journal reports.This approach would return al-Qaeda to its 1990s roots, when it attacked targets like the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the U.S.S. Cole destroyer in the Yemen port of Aden. The new Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, reportedly considers attacks on U.S. targets outside the country easier and more likely to succeed.
Intelligence gleaned from bin Laden’s computers show that Zawahiri is especially interested in attacking U.S. interests in Iraq and East Africa, the Journal reports.
The Yemeni chapter of al-Qaeda—which the U.S. considers the most dangerous branch in the global network—has recently sought to expand ties with al-Shabab, a Somali terrorist group, and urged them to attack U.S. targets in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa.
Muhammad Saiful Adli Ayob and Muhammad Haniff Hassan of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies argue today in the Eurasia Review that al-Qaeda’s strategic shift reflects necessity, not choice.
The accession of Zawahiri to replace bin Laden represents the victory of one faction within the organisation, allied with the Egyptian Zawahiri, over another faction, loyal to the Saudi bin Laden, they argue. With the Saudi faction now largely disenfranchised within the terrorist network, al-Qaeda’s influence will be limited to the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre.
“Its activities outside the theatre will be limited to propaganda work to instigate self-radicalized individuals and members of Al Qaeda franchises” in the Arabian Peninsula (including Yemen), Iraq, North Africa, and Indonesia, they argue.
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