Top Dem says al Qaeda network is on the run

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the announcement of Ayman al-Zawahiri to take over as the head of al Qaeda is a “desperate” move by the fractured terrorist group and shows that they’re on the run.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told The Hill that U.S. military and intelligence forces were narrowing their sights on key al Qaeda leaders and that it would not be nine years before Zawahiri was “brought to justice.”

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“I don’t know why he would want to take that position because we have shown through bin Laden that we’re going to find him and we’re going to bring him to justice,” said Ruppersberger in an interview, following a classified intelligence briefing.

“In my opinion, based on what I know, it’s not going to be as long as it took to get bin Laden.”

A vacuum has existed within the al Qaeda leadership since the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden six weeks ago, with everyone in the intelligence community wondering who would officially take the helm of one of the world's most notorious terrorist organizations. It had been nearly 10 years since bin Laden became the U.S.’s No. 1 enemy after he claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“I think al Qaeda’s on the run and the organization is fractured and having problems with their organization, implementation, and money to get the resources to do their jobs," Ruppersberger said. "This was an attempt to show that there’s some kind of leadership. I think it’s a desperate attempt on their part to show that there’s some organization and leadership because they’re pretty fractured now."

Ruppersberger pointed to the reported killing earlier this month of al Qaeda militant Ilyas Kashmiri, who was allegedly involved in the 2008 Mumbai rampage. Reports indicate that he was killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan and was thought to be a possible successor to bin Laden.

Also this month, Somali military forces killed al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was allegedly involved in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa.

“At this point, we have al Qaeda on the run and we’re going to keep focusing on all leadership,” said Ruppersberger. “If you want to kill a snake you’ve got to cut its head off, so we’re focusing on the top leadership of al Qaeda right now."