Ayman al-Zawahiri is a prominent leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Listed as the second most wanted terrorist in the world, al-Zawahiri has been involved in some of the most horrific terrorist attacks in history, including, the attacks on the World Trade Centers, Pentagon, USS Cole, and other terrorist operations in Africa.
He is seen today as the number two man behind Al-Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden. Born into an upper class Egyptian in home, al-Zawahiri's involvement in the Islamic Jihad movement began at the early age of sixteen, when he became heavily involved in Islamic groups in Egypt, including a plot by the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser. His radical views came largely from the writings and life of Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim who led the Muslim Brotherhood before he was killed under Nassar's regime. His Uncle Mahfouz Azzam,who was a former student of Qutb and later worked as Qutb's personal lawyer, told Zawahriri of Qutb's beliefs and story of his fight for Jihad.
After graduating from Cairo Medical School al-Zawahiri began his own practice in his hometown of Maadi. While filling in for another doctor at the Muslim Brotherhood clinic, he was asked to travel to Pakistan to tend to the Afghan refugees, which were the result of the Soviets occupation of the country, he readily agreed to the proposition. Al-Zawahiri dreamed of creating a total Islamic state that would be a vanguard for other countries to follow, he saw Afghanistan's terrain as a more suitable location for this jihad. During his work in Pakistan, he made several visits across the border into Afghanistan.
In 1980, al-Zawahiri returned to Cairo where he began work as a recruiter for jihad. After Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a radical group in 1981, al-Zawahiri and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested. While in prison, he and his fellow jihad friends faced frequent torture under Egypt's inquisition, Intelligence Unit 75. Through interrogation and torture, al-Zawahiri gave information which led to the arrest of other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In one instance, he was forced to call a suspected terrorist, who Zawari know closely, to tell him to meet him at a location, Egypt's security officials arrested the suspect at the location and placed him in the same prison cell as al-Zawahiri. Essam al-Qamari, the suspected terrorist and friend of al-Zawahiri, was sentenced to ten years in prison and later shot dead in an attempted escape.
After three years, al-Zawahiri was released from prison and traveled to Saudi Arabia and later to Jeddah, where he claims he first met Osama Bin Laden. In 1998, the two Jihad leaders announced the joining of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda to form the World Islamic Front for the Jihand Against Jews and Crusaders. In 1998, the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzaria were destroyed by suicide bombers; the United States later indicted both Ben Laden and al-Zawahiri for the attacks which killed 224 people. In retaliation, the United States lunched cruise missiles, however, both terrorist leaders escaped.
Occasionally appearing on tapes claiming responsibility for attacks on the United States, al-Zawahiri has become the main spokesperson for the terrorist network. al-Zawahiri was sentenced to death by an Egyptian court in 1999 for his role in organizing variety terrorist attacks, and the United States State Department has offered a $25 million award for information leading to his apprehension after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon. Although information on his location is not well known, al-Zawahiri, who is fluent in English, is suspected of being located in Afghanistan after traveling around Europe looking for refuge.
- The Looming Tower, al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 (book), by Lawrence Wright, pg 36
- The Looming Tower, L. Wright, pg. 45.
- The Looming Tower, al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 (book), by Lawrence Wright, pg 53
- The Looming Tower, L. Wight, pg.62
- Al-Qaida No. 2 insults Obama with racial epithet