Often referred to as Osama bin-Laden’s Top Lieutenant and al-Qaeda’s “Number 2″, Ayman al-Zawahiri continues to emerge as al-Qaeda’s most prominent and influential leader. The recent announcement by al-Sahab inviting journalists to send questions to al-Zawahiri (the first time media sources have been invited by al-Qaeda to interview one of its leaders since 9/11), reflects not only an attempt by the terrorist organization to reach a broader audience, but also an attempt by al-Zawahiri to portray himself as a sophisticated leader rather than just a mass murderer. By opening himself to questioning, al-Zawahiri hopes to enhance his own image by acting similar to political leaders in the United States and the West.
In 2007, al-Zawahiri appeared in at least sixteen (16) videos and audiotapes compared to four (4) from bin-Laden. In al-Zawahiri’s latest video announcement (released in early December), he could be heard answering questions while seated in front of Islamic law and theology books.
Al-Zawahiri, often thought to be the “brains and architect” of the al-Qaeda remains the ideological purist of the terrorist jihadi movement, threatening Muslim clerics who do not advocate jihad and warning against lapses in dedication to the “holy war”. He continues to present al-Qaeda as the leader of the militant Muslim movement and to operate its operational activities by commanding meetings of its top leadership.