The US has dismissed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new al-Qaeda chief as a pale imitation of Osama bin Laden and warned the Egyptian to expect a similar fate to his slain predecessor.

US officials painted the 59-year-old long-time number two as an “armchair general” with no combat experience, saying he not only lacked charisma and leadership skills but was also a divisive figure who could fracture al-Qaeda.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told al-Zawahiri to expect the same treatment meted out to bin Laden, who was killed by US commandos in the dead of night in a May 2 raid on his hideout in Pakistan.

“As we did both seek to capture and kill – and succeed in killing – Bin Laden, we certainly will do the same thing with al-Zawahiri,” Mullen said.

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