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From middle-class doctor to the world’s most wanted: Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri? | World News


As the key force behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Ayman al-Zawahiri has spent most of the past two decades with a $25 million bounty on his head.

The glasses-wearing Egyptian doctor was the leader of al Qaeda during the second half of that period. But he is perhaps better known for his role as Number 2 before Osama bin Laden, the charismatic founder of one of the world’s most notorious and barbaric terrorist organizations.

It was only after bin Laden’s death during a US special forces raid in Pakistan in 2011 that Zawahiri took the helm of the group, even though he lacked the inspirational ability of his close friend and ally. .

Al Qaeda, under his stewardship, has struggled to make much of an impact, especially when its surviving leaders are on the run or hiding from US and British counterterrorism forces. and other Western counterterrorism forces, while rival radical Islamic groups are on the rise, most notably the Islamic State or ISIS, with a smarter approach to social media association and attract more recruiters.

However, Zawahiri, 71, remained – until the weekend – the most notorious Islamist fighter to have escaped death or capture since US President George Bush launched the so-called “war on terror” after al Qaeda’s plane massacre in Washington and New York.

It means his death in a CIA drone strike in Kabul will be seen as a critical moment for the thousands of American and British spies and special forces agents who relentlessly hunt him down as part of their mission to disrupt and degrade al-Qaeda. Qaeda and prevent this group from again posing an international threat.

“They never forget,” US President Joe Biden said in a speech to the nation on Monday night, confirming the news that Zawahiri had died. He also revealed that the terrorist leader had moved to “the city center of Kabul” to reunite with his family.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, with an image of Osama bin Laden appearing in November 2001
Picture:
Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, with an image of Osama bin Laden appearing in November 2001

‘Comfortable upbringing’

Such a risky move stands in stark contrast to the years Zawahiri took every possible step to conceal his position – something he is largely considered to have achieved in the remote tribal region of Pakistan bordering Pakistan. with Afghanistan.

It might even turn out that a highly controversial decision by the United States to pull its forces out of Afghanistan in the face of the rising Taliban a year ago unintentionally created the conditions to lure Zawahiri out. out of the dark. The Taliban has long maintained a close relationship with al Qaeda despite promising to sever ties as part of a US troop withdrawal agreement.

His death in a covert drone strike in Afghanistan is a long way from Zawahiri’s laid-back start.

He was born into a middle-class family in the Maadi suburb of Cairo on June 19, 1951. Zawahiri’s father was a professor of pharmacology.

An academically gifted student, young Zawahiri chose to read medicine at Cairo University. But he is also politically active, with increasingly radical views against the Egyptian government. He founded the Jihad Group with some followers.

Also a family man, Zawahiri is married to a woman named Azza Nowair and the couple has six children – a son and five daughters.

Meet Osama bin Laden

According to a profile in the Washington Post’s Zawahiri, he began participating in visits to refugee camps along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Zawahiri used her medical training to care for the wounds of Afghan mujahideen fighters who were fighting the then Soviet-backed Afghan government.

It was the first time he met the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

Chaos returned in Egypt after the then president of Egypt was killed in 1981 which saw Zawahiri arrested and detained for three years. During this time he said he was tortured.

https://www.fbi.gov/wANT/wANT_terroists/ayman-al-zawahiri

After his release, he met bin Laden again and became his personal physician and increasingly trusted ally. An FBI wanted poster offering a bounty of up to $25m (£20.4m) for information on his whereabouts says Zawahiri used several alias, including The Doctor and The Teacher.

It is thought that Zawahiri, described as more of a thinker than a warrior, spent much of the 1990s traveling the world, including to the United States, Bulgaria, Denmark and Sweden. , using fake passports, to look for new sources of funding.

In 1997, he settled in the city of Jalalabad, southern Afghanistan. The following year, his militant group merged with bin Laden’s more successful al Qaeda – which is “base” in Arabic.

Zawahiri is believed to have helped oversee the planning of the 9/11 attacks and other atrocities by al Qaeda. He also claimed to have initiated a failed attempt by the group to purchase biological and nuclear weapons before they were forced to continue the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

As bin Laden’s deputy, even while in hiding, Zawahiri appeared on numerous videos uploaded to al Qaeda-friendly websites expressing his terrorist views.

However, after the death of his boss, and with friction within the ranks of al Qaeda and among other radical Islamist groups, Zawahiri had a lower profile, less visible.

Yet he remains an ever-higher target for US counterterrorism forces.



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