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The place Is Ayman Al-Zawahiri Hiding?

Ayman al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian-born eye surgeon who will have fun his 63rd birthday this June. That’s if, certainly, he makes it to June, for he’s a hunted man.

Al-Zawahiri has lengthy figured close to the highest of the checklist of the 22 “most needed terrorists” first compiled in 2001 after the 9/11 disaster, with a $25 million bounty for his seize — lifeless or alive. He has already had a number of shut calls with loss of life. Although he has up to now personally escaped, his spouse and two of their offspring paid the final word worth for being associated to him. They have been slaughtered in an air strike in winter 2001.

Ayman al-Zawahiri could be essentially the most hunted fugitive on the planet, for he’s the purported CEO of the militant Islamist terror consortium often known as Al Qaeda. He’s additionally successor to the dreaded and unlamented Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Abbottabad in Could, 2011 by SEAL Workforce Six.

The traditional knowledge, lengthy expressed publicly and privately by U.S. intelligence sources, is that Ayman al-Zawahiri is in a spider gap someplace in Pakistan, simply as many different Al Qaeda terrorists are additionally. However Pakistan is a really massive place; it covers some 300,000 sq. miles, the 37th largest nation on the earth, a chunk of actual property that’s ten per cent bigger than Texas.

The place in Pakistan may he be?

For starters, most analysts assume that he’s nearly actually in a spot in Pakistan the place there are girls and youngsters close by so {that a} drone strike can be dominated out merely due to the variety of innocents who must die with Al-Zawahiri have been he to be noticed after which blown up with a missile. That guidelines out a lot of the wild and wooly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan, the North-West Frontier Province close to the jap fringe of the enduring Khyber Move by way of the Spin Gar mountains. This is part of Pakistan the place even the navy typically dare not enterprise, rocky lands managed by tribal warlords who don’t settle for central authorities.

One would assume that is the right place for an outlaw to cover. It’s, or somewhat was, till the current deployment of drones. Drones have been used there lethally and successfully for years. Lots of of terrorists have been killed.

Much more seemingly, Al-Zawahiri is hiding within the city capital of the North-West Frontier Province, the fabled metropolis of Peshawar. Why Peshawar? For starters, it is likely one of the most densely populated facilities in Pakistan, with almost 40 million folks squeezed right into a slim valley within the foothills of the good Himalayan mountain chain that covers about 400 sq. miles. Its inhabitants density exceeds that of Hong Kong.

And since it’s semi-autonomous, even Pakistan’s central “regulation and order” authorities have restricted means to regulate folks and occasions there. It’s, in impact, the Harlem of Pakistan: You go there by invitation of the locals, in any other case you will not be welcome.

Additionally it is one of the attention-grabbing components of Pakistan, a melting pot of cultures and other people, the right place for a complicated man like Al-Zawahiri to cover with out having to surrender creature comforts.

Al-Zawahiri is understood to get pleasure from eating properly, and he may simply pursue this penchant in Peshawar, a metropolis of 10,000 eating places. And in contrast to OBL, who at 6 ft 5 stood out like a phone pole strolling amongst his fellow males, Al-Zawahiri is 5 foot 9 and weighs slightly over 150 kilos, a superbly nondescript man. Nobody actually is aware of what his face appears to be like like, for he has sported a full, bushy beard for many years, as do lots of his friends. Shave off the beard and who is aware of what lies beneath? He can be a simple man to disguise, to roam free in Peshawar. The one factor we would acknowledge are his eyes, and eyes are simply disguised with colour contacts.

Given his nearly sure presence in Peshawar, will he be caught? That relies upon how a lot HUMINT (HUMman INTelligence, that means spies on the bottom) the world’s spy companies are in a position to muster in sprawling Peshawar to penetrate Al Qaeda’s formidable secrecy. AQ’s leaders have discovered to foreswear cell telephones and pc. There are not any tweets or cell calls from these guys to trace. They use face-to-face to speak, or written notes on scraps of paper hidden within the soles of footwear. Spies in Peshawar take monumental dangers, for if they’re caught, torture and loss of life is the seemingly final result.

A lot of the hunt for Al-Zawahiri is occurring behind the scenes, and we’re unlikely to know a lot of the element of this thrilling story till after the final chapter is written. However we do have a template that’s suggestive of the way it may go down, and that’s the takedown in June, 2012 of Abu Yahya al-Libi, an occasion that American observers nonetheless regard as the largest success for the US since OBL was defanged the earlier yr.

Drones are able to masking massive items of densely packed actual property whereas resolving, with excessive energy lenses, objects solely inches throughout. Given ample clues — from pocket litter present in smaller takedowns to chatter absorbed by NSA over the ether — particular analysts known as “targeters” within the CIA at Langley and at Liberty Crossing can use drones to deal with particular areas the place additional visible clues might emerge.

No American commander would ever unleash Hellfire missiles on a metropolis with a inhabitants density of 100,000 per sq. mile, however drones might nonetheless show efficient in complementing HUMINT intelligence by tirelessly overflying properties and different buildings the place Al-Zawahiri could also be hiding. Until, like OBL, he’s indoors on a regular basis, he’ll nearly actually be discovered.

There’s all the time the prospect, too, that Al-Zawahiri will depart Peshawar to go rally the troops within the outlying boonies. That’s what doomed Al-Libi. The pointers all got here collectively and the drones, like remorseless, tireless, and highly effective birds of prey, circled his location on the proper second whereas he was on the transfer, then vaporized him in a moist, pink cloud of mist with an acutely aimed Hellfire.

Loss of life by Hellfire is instantaneous. But that seemingly provides small consolation to Ayman al-Zawahiri when he appears to be like heavenward, surveying the skies of Pakistan, questioning when his inevitable second of oblivion will come.

Supply by Francesca Salerno

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