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Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's Deputy Operations Chief prior to bin Laden's death, assumed the role of commander, according to an announcement by al-Qaeda on June 16, 2011.
Another group, approximately 10,000 strong, live in Western states and have received rudimentary combat training.
When asked about the possibility of al-Qaeda's connection to the July 7, 2005 London bombings in 2005, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: "Al-Qaeda is not an organization. What exactly al-Qaeda is, or was, remains in dispute.
Certainly, it has been obliged to evolve and adapt in the aftermath of 9/11 and the launch of the 'war on terror'.
However, author and journalist Adam Curtis argues that the idea of al-Qaeda as a formal organization is primarily an American invention.
Curtis contends the name "al-Qaeda" was first brought to the attention of the public in the 2001 trial of bin Laden and the four men accused of the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa: The reality was that bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri had become the focus of a loose association of disillusioned Islamist militants who were attracted by the new strategy. These were militants who mostly planned their own operations and looked to bin Laden for funding and assistance. There is also no evidence that bin Laden used the term "al-Qaeda" to refer to the name of a group until after September 11 attacks, when he realized that this was the term the Americans had given it.
The first, numbering in the tens of thousands, was "organized, trained, and equipped as insurgent combat forces" in the Soviet-Afghan war.