Ayman al-Zawahiri Killed in Predator Strike?

Al Qaeda number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri was severely wounded in a US predator strike earlier this week, CBS is reporting.

Reported killed in Predator strikeAyman al-Zawahiri – the second most powerful leader in al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s No. 2 – may be critically wounded and possibly dead, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reports exclusively.

CBS News has obtained a copy of an intercepted letter from sources in Pakistan, which urgently requests a doctor to treat al-Zawahiri. He’s believed to be somewhere in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas of Pakistan. The letter refers to Sheikh Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri by name – and says that he is in “severe pain” and his “injuries are infected.”

It is reportedly written by local Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, whose signature and seal are visible on the letter. The Taliban logo and the Mehsud’s seal have been confirmed by experts as legitimate.

The letter is dated July 29 – one day after a U.S. air strike that killed al Qaeda weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri, and five other Arabs in South Waziristan.

U.S. authorities have said they do not have information that al-Zawahiri was present during Monday’s strike, or that he was injured. However, a counter-intelligence expert and other U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News that the U.S. is looking into reports that al-Zawahiri is dead.

One would imagine. Given the number of false reports of successful strikes on key al Qaeda leaders, skepticism is of course warranted. Bill Roggio thinks we should be especially dubious of this report given its Pakistani origins and the fact that al Qaeda hasn’t issued a martyrdom report.

Even if Zawahiri’s death is verified, it’s unlikely to have much lasting impact. Al Qaeda is a brand name as much as it is a traditional terrorist group at this stage and there are more than enough people who can plan attacks on soft targets.

Still, it would be nice to see this guy pay for his crimes.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. […] James Joyner: Even if Zawahiri’s death is verified, it’s unlikely to have much lasting impact. Al Qaeda is a brand name as much as it is a traditional terrorist group at this stage and there are more than enough people who can plan attacks on soft targets. […]

  2. […] James Joyner: Even if Zawahiri’s death is verified, it’s unlikely to have much lasting impact. Al Qaeda is a brand name as much as it is a traditional terrorist group at this stage and there are more than enough people who can plan attacks on soft targets. […]

  3. Pug says:

    It sure would be nice to make this guy pay for his crimes. It should have happened a long time ago.

  4. Dantheman says:

    And it’s telling which candidate has spoken in favor of striking within Pakistan to get at al Qu’eda’s leadership, and been called naive for doing so. Now when it turns out we’re actually doing it, that goes by the wayside.

  5. Jef says:

    this seems to be getting no attention on the news. Much more attention about missing children on foxnews than this story.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Hopefully this is for real. Some justice for the victims of 9/11.

  7. DL says:

    Radical Islam is like liberalism. We make a mistake if we think we can defeat it by ridding our selves of the guy at the top.It is too big -it encompasses and permeates too many souls. It must be defeated by by attacking it errors and changing its own – it must change from within – but that will happen only by others resisting it everytime and everyplace. Feeding it, or liberalism, by capitulation or imitation merely assists its success.

  8. James Joyner says:

    And it’s telling which candidate has spoken in favor of striking within Pakistan to get at al Qu’eda’s leadership, and been called naive for doing so. Now when it turns out we’re actually doing it, that goes by the wayside.

    Obama was criticized for saying he’d do it without the consent of the Pakistani government. We’re now doing it in cooperation with them. Huge difference.

  9. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Yep — one of my main objections to Obama is that he’s expressed a willingness to fly through the dragon’s mouth by staging raids against a-Q on Pakistani territory AGAINST the wishes of the Pakistani government, which is an extremely dangerous thing to do when you’re dealing with a very wobbly state that possesses 100 nukes, and not only a population but a military (especially an intelligence service) that’s largely sympathetic to a-Q. (For that latter reason, however, I’m also extremely skeptical — as you are — of this report.)

    This guy, however, is perhaps the one individual member of a-Q that it’s seriously worth going after; he was always the brains of the operation, both as a strategic organization and as an ideological movement. If he’s gone, they won’t be nearly so certain what to do — against us, or anyone else.

  10. Dantheman says:

    “Obama was criticized for saying he’d do it without the consent of the Pakistani government. We’re now doing it in cooperation with them.”

    Your basis for saying we have Pakistan’s consent is what? It’s certainly not apparent in the article cited.