Who may replace bin Laden as new head of al-Qaeda? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Who may replace bin Laden as new head of al-Qaeda?

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Osama bin Laden may be dead, but al-Qaeda isn't, and a former San Diegan could be in line to take his place as its next leader.

40-year-old al-Qaeda warlord Anwar Al-Awlaki is a radical Islamic cleric who preached at a mosque in La Mesa while living in San Diego in the 1990's. Even before bin Laden's death, Al-Awlaki was dubbed the "bin Laden of the Internet" for his work at recruiting and spreading his message online. Al-Awlaki is believed to have been behind the ink cartridge bomb plot to take down a jetliner in November 2010.

59-year-old Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born surgeon who has been known as al-Qaeda's second in command could also emerge as bin Laden's successor. and then there is Abu Yahya Al-Libi, who is considered a young and rising star in the terrorist organization.

Of those in bin Laden's inner circle, according to the UK's Guardian newspaper, these three men are the only leaders who are alive and remain free. Bin Laden and 8 others are either dead or captured.

"Al-Qaeda is widespread right now, " said retired Army Colonel David Epstein, who once worked as director of anti-terrorism training with the us department of state, says al-Qaeda is no longer a centrally controlled organization, but rather a network of cells, each with its own missions. He told News 8, "We better be vigilant, because as I said, Osama was not the key to ending this thing there are other people out there, and they will come up."

Meantime, the FBI continues to search for others in the network. There's a $25 million reward for information leading to al-Zawahiri, and a $1 million reward to find Californian Adam Gadahn. As al-Qaeda's cells grow stronger, Epstein says, there's a multi-generational battle ahead. He said, "I hate to say it but I think you're children, and maybe even your grandchildren will be asking the same questions you're asking tonight , I hope not but I think that's what's going to happen."


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