Al-Qaida has selected its longtime No. 2 to succeed Osama bin Laden following last month's U.S. commando raid that killed the terror leader, according to a statement posted Thursday on a web site affiliated with the network.
Al-Qaida gave no details about the selection process for bin Laden's successor but said that it was the best tribute to the memory of its "martyrs."
The Islamic militant group issued a statement saying that Al- Zawahri plans to continue al-Qaida's fight against Israel and the United States, according to a report by Aljazeera on Thursday.
"We seek with the aid of God to call for the religion of truth and incite our nation to fight ... by carrying out jihad against the apostate invaders ... with their head being crusader America and its servant Israel, and whoever supports them," the statement said.
Al-Zawahri, who will turn 60 next week, met bin Laden in the mid-1980s in Pakistan, where both were aiding guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.
He is the son of an upper middle class Egyptian family of doctors and scholars. His father was a pharmacology professor at Cairo University's medical school and his grandfather was the grand imam of Al-Azhar University, a premier center of religious study.
His current whereabouts are unknown.
In a videotaped eulogy released earlier this month, al-Zawahri emphasized his commitment to continuing bin Laden's mission.
"The Sheikh [bin Laden] has departed, may God have mercy on him, to his God as a martyr, and we must continue on his path of jihad to expel the invaders from the land of Muslims and to purify it from injustice," he said in the video.
The Islamist leader warned that America faces not just individual terrorists or groups but an international community of Muslims that seek to destroy it and its allies.
"Today, praise God, America is not facing an individual, a group or a faction," he said, wearing a white robe and turban with an assault rifle leaned on a wall behind him. "It is facing a nation than is in revolt, having risen from its lethargy to a renaissance of jihad."