MIDDLE EAST: A rift within Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda increasingly faces sharp criticism from once-loyal sympathizers who openly question its ideology and tactics, including attacks that kill innocent Muslims, according to U.S. intelligence officials, counter-terrorism experts and the group's own communications.
A litany of complaints target Osama bin Laden's network and its affiliates for their actions in Iraq and North Africa, emphasis on suicide bombings instead of political action and tepid support for, or outright antagonism toward, militant groups pressing the Palestinian cause.
The criticism apparently has grown serious enough that Al Qaeda's chief strategist, Ayman Zawahiri, felt compelled to solicit online questions. He responded in an audio message released this month. For more than 90 minutes, Bin Laden's second-in-command tried to defuse the anger.
—Josh Meyer in Washington
Photo: Ayman Zawahiri, left, Al Qaeda’s chief strategist, seen here with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998, recently responded on tape to questions, many angry. Credit: Mazhar Ali Khan / Courtesy Paladin InVision/WETA