Who will take the place of Usama bin Laden on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists? It’s a question many are pondering as they digest the news that the world’s No. 1 sought-after terrorist is dead.
“It’s not something that’s a clear-cut answer as far as this person was a No. 3 and now will move up to a No. 2 position, it doesn’t happen that way," says FBI Special Agent Steven Gomez.
“You have to take all the intelligence that’s occurring throughout the intelligence community and determine what’s the next step.”
There are currently 29 people left on the “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, a mix of domestic and international terrorists, people involved with large scale, catastrophic events like the hijacking of a Pan Am flight in 1986 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. (Usama bin Laden also appeared on both the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives,” of which there are now nine people.)
There are also two people from California. One is Daniel Andreas San Diego, an American citizen with ties to an extremist animal rights group. He is wanted for his alleged involvement in the 2003 bombing of two office buildings in San Francisco.
Also from California is Adam Gadahn, considered a homegrown terrorist who converted to Islam as a teenager and then rose through the ranks of Al Qaeda to become a spokesperson, taunting Americans on several occasions with threatening videos.
And the big fish on the list is Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian national thought of as the lieutenant of bin Laden who is wanted for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings in the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. His capture could net someone a $25 million reward.
But the FBI is quick to point out that the list is really in no particular order. Even though bin Laden was technically No. 1, there is no official ranking, and depending on the intelligence at the time, any one person could rise through the ranks to the most-wanted spot.
The 9/11 organizer no doubt has left big shoes to fill, and at least one former State Department adviser says that now is the time to reassess the world stage without Usama bin Laden.
“His dislodgement from the top of that list is an opportunity now, I think, to step back and think through some of the broader strategy that has to happen in the war on terror, says Christian Whiton, “in order to get a lasting strategic solution.”