Nightly News   |  May 03, 2011

Engel: al-Qaida 'franchises' will continue

NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, who has covered al-Qaida's global terrorism network for years, offers perspective on how al-Qaida is likely to operate in the future without its leader.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as promised here, we're back with more on the death of osama bin laden . he was, of course, the founder of al qaeda as we know it, but his influence of late is open to some question, and now the question becomes what becomes of al qaeda with bin laden dead? our chief foreign correspondent richard engel has been covering, of course, this war on terrorism around the globe for a long time, many years, and has some perspective on all of this tonight. he's in libya tonight, of course. and richard, this was never an organization with a flow chart or letterhead. it's part of what we all had to get used to in the new world.

>> reporter: absolutely. but they did have a second in command. and osama bin laden 's number two, dr. ayman al zawahiri -s most likely to lead the organization now. he's 59 years old, an egyptian. the u.s. military has tried to kill him at least six times, all of them unsuccessful, obviously. he has a long history of involvement with islamic militant groups. in fact, even longer than osama bin laden himself. but ayman al zawahiri is nowhere near as cares matt i can as osama bin laden , and that could be a major problem. it was bin laden who was always the main draw for recruits. he was the spiritual leader. and now that he is gone it will be a blow to al qaeda . but over the years, that said, al qaeda has splintered off into many different franchises, and those franchises operate independently. and already today in iraq we saw the first al qaeda attack since osama bin laden was killed. that attack being blamed on al qaeda in iraq . a bomb exploding in a shiite cafe in a neighborhood -- in a shiite neighborhood, killing at least 16 people, brian.

>> all right. richard engel , who again, has spent way too much of his life covering the dual wars overseas. richard, thanks.