Osama bin Laden’s long-time No 2 has been anointed as the new leader of al-Qaeda, following Bin laden’s assassination by US commandos in May.

A statement posted today on a jihadi website identifies Ayman al-Zawahri, who will turn 60 next week, at al-Qaeda’s new figurehead.

Al-Zawahri, who is believed to be operating from somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, 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.

In a videotaped eulogy released earlier this month, al-Zawahri warned that America faces not 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.”

Al-Zawahri also heaped praise on bin Laden, who was killed in a May 2 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, and criticized the U.S. for burying him at sea.

“He went to his God as a martyr, the man who terrified America while alive and terrifies it in death, so much so that they trembled at the idea of his having tomb,” he said.