Al-Qaeda’s Leaders Are Dying, But a Greater Challenge Looms

A string of top-level al-Qaeda leaders have been killed this year in U.S. counterterrorism operations extending from Afghanistan to Iran and Syria. The frequency of the strikes, together with the seniority of those lost, has dealt a crippling blow to the old guard responsible for founding al-Qaeda back in the 1980s. After nearly 20 years of relentless counterterrorism pressure following the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda’s central leadership has grown older, more distant and disconnected, and, it seems, increasingly vulnerable. Most prominently, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (better known as Abu Mohammed al-Masri), was reportedly killed in August by a team of elite Israeli assassins acting on U.S. intelligence in the Iranian capital of Tehran. The targeting of al-Masri, the most likely successor to overall leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was one of the most significant operational successes against al-Qaeda since Osama Bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. That it took place in

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A Brief Note on the Spike in Intra-Sahelian Conflict in Light of al-Naba

Al-Muraqib is a new author platform for Jihadica authors and guests. Contact jihadica@protonmail.com if you are interested in contributing. In last week’s al-Naba, a weekly newsletter the Islamic State issues every Thursday, two interesting articles focused on the newest local manifestation of intra-Jihadi conflict. The Sahel was long seen as “the exception”, but in the summer of 2019 tensions finally started to emerge between the local Islamic State affiliate known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), a subgroup of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin (JNIM), the local al-Qaida franchise (and a sub-group of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb). During the fall of 2019 skirmishes were reported, but the conflict really got going in early 2020. For a great timeline see Nsaibia and Weiss’ piece in the CTC Sentinel from July. Here, the authors report that between July 2019 and July 2020 the

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