Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Article

August 13, 2022

Ayman Al-Zawahiri (Arabic: |ايمن الذواهري; born 19 June 1951, died 31 July 2022) was an Egyptian-born physician and theologian who was one of the leaders of al-Qaeda, an Islamist terrorist organization. He was the leader of the militant organization Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which in 2001 was merged with al-Qaeda. He was a writer, poet and spoke Arabic, French and fluent English. He took over as leader of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death in May 2011, and led the organization until his own death in 2022. He was considered one of the main men behind both the terrorist attacks in Kenya and Tanzania on 7 August 1998 and the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001, and was for many years among the world's most wanted persons. In 2001, the US State Department offered a $25 million reward for information leading to his arrest or death. Al-Zawahiri was believed to be hiding in Pakistan. On July 31, 2022, al-Zawahiri was killed in an American drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. He used many aliases; Abu Muhammad (Abu Mohammed), Abu Fatima, Muhammad Ibrahim, Abu Abdallah, Abu al-Mu'iz, the Doctor, the Teacher, Nur, Ustaz, Abu Mohammed Nur al-Deen, Abdel Muaz (Abdel Moez, Abdel Muez).

Life and work

1951–1960

al-Zawahiri grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in Cairo. He was the son of a professor of pharmacy, and the grandson of an imam in Al-Azhar, one of Egypt's largest mosques. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 14, and was strongly influenced by the execution of the Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb the following year. The following year he was arrested for being part of a militant Islamist group, but was released after a short time. He studied medicine at Cairo University, completing his degree in 1974. He then worked for three years as a doctor in the Egyptian military, and then in a hospital in Cairo.

The 1980s

In 1981, al-Zawahiri was arrested and charged with having been involved in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He was not convicted of complicity in the murder due to a lack of evidence, but was sentenced to three years in prison for possession of a weapon. In 1985, after being released from prison, al-Zawahiri traveled from Egypt to Pakistan, where as a doctor he treated mujahedin soldiers who had been wounded in battles with the Soviet Russian occupation forces in Afghanistan. It was in this context that he became acquainted with Osama Bin Laden, whom he met in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The 1990s

In 1993, al-Zawahiri became the leader of the Egyptian Jihad. The 2nd largest armed Islamist group in Egypt. Late in 1996 he was arrested in Russia. He was imprisoned for a full 6 months by the FSB, after he allegedly tried to recruit helpers for Jihad in Chechnya. He was driven to the border with Azerbaijan and released by the Russians. In 1997, he was held responsible for the massacre of 62 tourists in the Egyptian city of Luxor on 17 November 1997. A military trial in Egypt sentenced al-Zawahiri to death in absentia in 1999 for this attack and his "militant activities". Al-Zawahiri joined Osama bin Laden in 1998. On February 23, 1998, al-Zawahiri together with bin Laden issued a joint fatwa entitled "World Islamic Front Against Jews and Crusaders", this is considered an important step in globalizing their match. He has been indicted in connection with the 1998 bombings against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The 2000s

The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001: al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden are believed to be the main men behind the terrorist attack against the United States. In 2002, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat al-Zawahiri publishes the book Fursan Taht Rayah Al-Nabi (Knights under the banner of the Prophet) in 11 excerpts. On September 25, 2001, Interpol issues an arrest warrant for Dr. al-Zawahiri following the terrorist attacks against the United States. On October 10, 2001, al-Zawahiri was placed at the top of the FBI's "top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists". This was announced by President Bush.