Ayman Al Zawahiri

Is the terror group dead or alive? It's complicated.

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First Read reports: Ayman al Zawahiri is by no means a shoo-in as al Qaeda's next leader. He is not liked by many in the organization, and he faces competition from at least two others, one of them an American, a senior U.S. official tells NBC News. In addition to having a face for radio, and not at all charismatic, he is not nearly as popular as bin Laden internally. He has a reputation as being arrogant," said the official.

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Louis Klarevas explores Al Qaeda’s fate post-bin Laden.

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The Heir

Is Qaddafi's hip, globe-trotting son for real?

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The Battle for Tora Bora

Four days before the fall of Kabul in November 2001, Osama bin Laden was still in town. The Al Qaeda leader’s movements before and after September 11 are difficult to trace precisely, but, just prior to the attacks, we know that he appeared in Kandahar and urged his followers to evacuate to safer locations in anticipation of U.S. retaliation. Then, on November 8, he was in Kabul, despite the fact that U.S. forces and their Afghan allies were closing in on the city.

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The Front

On July 25, Najibullah Zazi, a lanky man in his mid-twenties, walked into the Beauty Supply Warehouse in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. The visit was captured on a store video camera. Wearing a baseball cap and pushing a shopping cart, Zazi appeared to be just another suburban guy. Of course, not many suburban guys buy six bottles of Clairoxide hair bleach, as Zazi did on this shopping trip--or return a month later to buy a dozen bottles of "Ms. K Liquid," a peroxide-based product.

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The Al Qaeda videotape shows a small white dog tied up inside a glass cage. A milky gas slowly filters in. An Arab man with an Egyptian accent says: "Start counting the time." Nervous, the dog starts barking and then moaning.

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Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since Al Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996.

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The Killer Question

The last time I saw Benazir Bhutto was over dinner at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., three weeks before her October return to Pakistan. She was in enormously good spirits, almost effervescent. The years in the political wilderness looked like they were coming to an end. But, at one point, the conversation took a more serious turn as she began discussing the mysterious death of General Zia, the dictator who had hanged her father in 1979.Zia died in a plane accident in Pakistan nine years later.

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War of Error

Omar bin Laden, the fourth son of the Al Qaeda leader, cuts a striking figure. In one photo, he stares out from beneath an Adidas baseball cap, his beard closely trimmed--an entirely different look from his father's seventh-century aesthetic. He wears jeans and sits next to his much older wife, a pale-faced British woman with pig tails, whom he divorced a mere five months into their marriage. While his father would not approve of his lifestyle choices, few men know the terrorist mastermind so well.

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