Controversy as al-Qaeda recruits top foreign exec to head up North Africa branch
NORTHERN PAKISTAN: Several of al-Qaeda’s high-ranking officials have spoken out in anger after the decision by the terror group to hire a top foreign executive to head up its North Africa operations.
Following the killing of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in Mali a few weeks ago, many experts had expected al-Qaeda to select a replacement internally, promoting one of its senior managers to the top spot at al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
However, this morning the militant extremist organisation announced that it had broken with tradition, revealing that for the first time in its history it had looked outside the group and was appointing Aaron Claythorn, formerly Chief Financial Officer of AstraZeneca.
“Aaron brings with him a wealth of experience from the biopharmaceuticals industry that we’re positive can be reapplied to our global jihadist ambitions,” al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a statement. “Alongside overseeing a 23 per cent growth in AstraZeneca’s European operations over the past four years, Aaron has helped spearhead some of the company’s biggest recent financial success stories. We’re very excited to have someone of his calibre on board.”
But the appointment of Claythorn, which is believed to have involved a seven-figure signing-on bonus after several days of intense negotiations in Zurich, has angered a number of al-Qaeda officials who had been tipped for succession.
Ozman Abou Alkacha, the former deputy chief in North Africa and a favourite for the job, was said to be “considering his options” following the snub, while Abdelhamid Dharza, head of operations in Libya and a rising name within the organisation, labeled the decision “an utter disgrace”. Several others have said they would refuse to work with Claythorn.
But in a statement, Claythorn – who is due to start at AQIM next month – ignored the controversy surrounding his appointment and simply said he was “looking forward to working alongside Ayman, getting to know the whole team and really just hitting the ground running in the ongoing Holy War against the western infidels”.