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. "We could see Anwar al-Awlaki move in, or Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani militant.
Al-Awlaki, 40, is the New Mexico-born American leader of al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, who had contact with both Abdul Muttallab, the underwear bomber, and Col. Nidal Hassan, who killed 15 people at Ft. Hood two years ago...as well as two of the 9-11 bombers while preaching in San Diego. Al Awlaki is viewed as the most charismatic official in al Qaeda today and regularly used social media, including Facebook and a blog, to recruit members to the cause.
Less well known is Ilyas Kashmiri, 46, who is a leader in the Pakistani terrorist organization Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which is closely tied to Al-Qaeda. Kashmiri rebuilt its strength while collaborating with the Taliban. He is under indictment in the US for his role in the planned attacks on the Danish cartoonist who drew the Prophet Mohammed.
"They have a lot to sort out, said the official and it will be difficult for them to convene a meeting," said the official.
Computers could reveal al Qaeda money men
A senior U.S. official also says the initial exploitation of the computers and other digital devices retrieved from the bin Laden compound have proven that the materials "contain very valuable information."
The official, asked if there was donor information on the computers, hard drives, etc., would not deny it adding it was "entirely possible." The U.S. has long sought lists of donors to the al Qaeda cause, those private individuals in the Gulf states who have financed operations.