“al-Qaeda Chief in the Cross Hairs”

Mikhail Galustov / Redux (inset): AFP-Getty Images

A year after the death of Osama bin Laden, American special operators are training their sights on his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former Egyptian Army surgeon widely regarded as the mastermind of major attacks against Americans and other targets. And forces loyal to Zawahiri, who affectionately call him “Glasses” because of his trademark oversize spectacles, are determined to guard their leader.

Zawahiri’s safety was the main subject of conversation when several senior al Qaeda operatives and a handful of other militants sat down for a dinner meeting in North Waziristan six months ago, according to a well-placed Taliban source. The host of the dinner, from a prominent Taliban family, had a sheep slaughtered in honor of his Arab guests. Over a meal of mutton kebabs and pilau, the men expressed concerns about Zawahiri’s security in light of bin Laden’s bloody end. They said Zawahiri’s handlers and tribal hosts had strongly advised him “to move to a new place,” to stop using electronic devices, to limit his exposure by issuing fewer audio and video propaganda tapes, and to exercise extreme caution in dealing with couriers. [NEWSWEEK]

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