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New al Qaida leaders emerging

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) -- Six militants have emerged from within al Qaida ranks to direct the group's terrorist activities and fill the void left by the death or absence of Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The nucleus of the group has worked together for years, the report said.

"The strength of the group is they don't need centralized command and control," one U.S. intelligence official told the newspaper. They "know what it is they want to do."

The new leaders are believed to have directed a wave of recent terrorist plots against Western targets, including the Oct. 12 bomb attack of a Bali nightclub district, which killed 180, most of them tourists.

The report said Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian is viewed as the new military leader for the remnants of al Qaida and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. He took over as chief of military operations late last year, after U.S. bombs killed Muhammad Atef, al Qaida's military commander.

Al-Adel helped plan the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, and took part in coordinating the 2000 suicide ramming of the USS Cole in a port in Yemen. Another Egyptian, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, is named in the Post report as al Qaida's new chief financial officer.

Riduan Isamuddin, an Indonesian, is described as al Qaida's liaison to loose-knit radical Islamic groups in Southeast Asia.

The others named as emerging group leaders are Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian; Tawfiq bin Atash, a Saudi or Yemeni; and Rahim al-Nashri, a Yemeni.

The group's military operations have moved out of Afghanistan to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and around the world, Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, told the Post.

"Al Qaida will become even more fractured and will rely increasingly on local and regional groups" to carry out attacks, he said.

The organization's financial structure is also rapidly decentralizing, according to a senior U.S. official. "There is no central banker for al Qaida anymore," the official said, adding that intelligence officials believe bin Laden, as he fled his Afghanistan stronghold, told his people "to go out, raise your own money, carry out your own attacks, and you have my blessing for whatever you do. You don't need approval from headquarters anymore."

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