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Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Interesting Article: Al-Qaeda targets dwindle as group shrinks by GREG MILLER / Washington published Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An interesting article talked about the leadership ranks of the main al-Qaeda terrorist network and spoke about the organization being reduced to just two figures whose demise would mean the group’s defeat. The two mentioned was Ayman al-Zawahiri and his second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi. U.S. officials stressed that al-Qaeda’s influence extends far beyond its operational reach, meaning that the terrorist group will remain a major security threat for years. Still, U.S. officials who described al-Qaeda as being on the verge of defeat after Osama bin Laden was killed said they have been surprised by the pace and extent of the group’s contraction in the six months since then. So who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?


Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri (Ayman al-Zawahiri) an Egyptian physician, Islamic theologian and current leader of al-Qaeda (which was confirmed by a press release from al-Qaeda's general command on June 16). He was previously the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having succeeded Abbud al-Zumar in the latter role when Egyptian authorities sentenced al-Zumar to life imprisonment. Al-Zawahiri is reportedly a qualified surgeon; when his organization merged with bin Laden's al-Qaeda, he became bin Laden's personal advisor and physician. He had first met bin Laden in Jeddah in 1986. He speaks Arabic, English and French. In 1998, al-Zawahiri formally merged the Egyptian Islamic Jihad into al-Qaeda. According to reports by a former al-Qaeda member, he has worked in the al-Qaeda organization since its inception and was a senior member of the group's shura council. He was often described as a "lieutenant" to Osama bin Laden, though bin Laden's chosen biographer has referred to him as the "real brains" of al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri was born to an upper middle class family in Maadi, Egypt, a suburb of Cairo. Al-Zawahiri became both quite pious and political, under the influence of his uncle Mahfouz Azzam, and lecturer Mostafa Kamel Wasfi. By the age of 14, al-Zawahiri had joined the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Zawahiri graduated from Cairo University in 1974 and served three years as a surgeon in the Egyptian Army after which he established a clinic near his parents. In 1978, he also earned a master's degree in surgery. In 1993, al-Zawahiri sent his younger brother—Muhammad al-Zawahiri—to the Balkans to help run the mujahidin fighters in Bosnia. Muhammad is known as a logistics expert and is said to be the military commander of Islamic Jihad. Muhammad worked in Bosnia, Croatia, and Albania under the cover of being an International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) official (while hiding in the United Arab Emirates, he was arrested in 2000, then extradited to Egypt where he was sentenced to death. However, after the Egyptian popular uprising in the spring of 2011, on March 17, 2011 he was released from prison by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the interim government of Egypt. His lawyer said he had been held to extract information about his brother Ayman. However, on Sunday March 20, 2011, he was re-arrested). In 1978 al-Zawahiri married his wife Azza Ahmed Nowari, who was studying philosophy at Cairo University. The couple had four daughters, Fatima (b. 1981), Umayma, Nabila (b. 1986) and Khadiga (b. 1987), and a son Mohammed. He eventually became one of Egyptian Islamic Jihad's leading organizers and recruiters. Zawahiri's hope was to recruit military officers and accumulate weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order." Al-Zawahiri was convicted of dealing in weapons and received a three-year sentence, which he completed in 1984, shortly after his conviction. In 1985, al-Zawahiri went to Saudi Arabia on Hajj and stayed to practice medicine in Jeddah for a year. He was reported to have first met bin Laden there a little later in 1986. Zawahiri has allegedly worked with the Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of al-Qaeda. Lawrence Wright reports that EIJ operative Ali Mohammed "told the FBI that al-Jihad had planned a coup in Egypt in 1990." Zawahiri had studied the 1979 Islamist Islamic Revolution and "sought training from the Iranians" as to how to duplicate their feat against the Egyptian government. In 1993 Zawahiri traveled to the United States, where he addressed several California mosques under his Abdul Mu'iz pseudonym, relying on his credentials from the Kuwaiti Red Crescent to raise money for Afghan children who had been injured by Soviet land mines—he only raised $2000. On February 23, 1998, he issued a joint fatwa with Osama bin Laden under the title "World Islamic Front Against Jews and Crusaders". Zawahiri, not bin Laden, is thought to have been the actual author of the fatwa. Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri organized an al-Qaeda congress on June 24, 1998 and soon after their occurred a series of attacks that occurred on August 7, 1998, in which hundreds of people were, killed in simultaneous truck bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the major East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The attacks brought Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to international attention. Following the 2000 USS Cole bombing, Mohammed Atef was moved to Kandahar, Zawahiri to Kabul, and Bin Laden fled to Kabul, later joining Atef when he realized no American reprisal attacks were forthcoming. Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri's whereabouts are unknown, but he is generally thought to be in tribal Pakistan. In 2003, it was rumored that he was under arrest in Iran, although this was never confirmed. On January 13, 2006, the Central Intelligence Agency, aided by Pakistan's ISI, launched an airstrike on Damadola, a Pakistani village near the Afghan border where they believed al-Zawahiri was located. On January 30, a new video was released showing al-Zawahiri unhurt. The video discussed the airstrike, but did not reveal if al-Zawahiri was present in the village at that time. On August 1, 2008, CBS News reported that it had obtained a copy of an intercepted letter dated July 29, 2008, from unnamed sources in Pakistan, which urgently requested a doctor to treat al-Zawahiri. The letter indicated that al-Zawahiri was critically injured in a US missile strike at Azam Warsak village in South Waziristan on July 28 that also reportedly killed al Qaeda explosives expert Abu Khabab al-Masri. Taliban Mehsud spokesman Maulvi Umar told the Associated Press on August 2, 2008, that the report of al-Zawahiri's injury was false. Following the death of bin Laden, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism Juan Zarate said that al-Zawahiri would "clearly assume the mantle of leadership" of al-Qaeda. al-Zawahiri's succession to command of al-Qaeda was announced on several of their websites on June 16, 2011. According to U.S. officials within the Obama administration and Robert Gates, al-Zawahiri would find the leadership difficult as, while intelligent, he lacks combat experience and the charisma of Osama bin Laden. Terrorism analyst Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish National Defence College said that, as al-Zawahiri didn't have the same status or personality as bin Laden, he would focus on attacking the West to avenge bin Laden's death and to promote himself. al-Zawahiri is under indictment in the United States for this role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The Rewards for Justice Program of the U.S. Department of State is offering a reward of up to US$25 million for information about his location. Al-Zawahiri is most likely in hiding in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and  U.S Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that  the United States has identified some 10 to 20 key al-Qaeda leaders in areas like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa, and that tracking them down would mean the defeat of the terror organization. American intelligence community strongly believes he may be hiding somewhere in an urban locality of Pakistan, most likely in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as had been the case with Osama bin Laden. US intelligence sleuths believe Zawahiri had shifted from his hideout in Fata to some urban locality after having escaped a US drone strike on January 13, 2006 targeting Damadola village of Bajaur Agency in Fata that killed 18 people.  Hopefully we find him soon.

References:
BBC: Ayman al-Zawahiri appointed as al-Qaeda leader, June 16, 2011
Saad Abedine (16). "Jihadist websites: Ayman al-Zawahiri appointed al Qaeda's new leader". Cable News Network.. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
www.memri.org. "Al-Qaeda Deputy Head Ayman Al-Zawahiri in Audio Recording: Musharraf Accepted Israel's Existence". Memri.org. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
"Most Wanted Terrorists – Ayman Al-Zawahiri". Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice. Retrieved December 23, 2007.
 14.^ Lawrence Wright (2006). The Looming Tower. Knopf. Chapter 2. ISBN 9-375-41486-X.
Egypt Releases Brother of Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Liam Stack, The New York Times, March 17, 2011
Brother of Al-Qaeda's Zawahri re-arrested, Sherif Tarek, Ahram Online, Mar 20, 2011
Intelligence report, interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, February 18, 2004.
Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, 2006 ISBN 9-375-41486-X.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Summary of the Security Intelligence Report concerning Mahmoud Jaballah, February 22, 2008.
AFP, Iran holding Zawahiri, Abu Ghaith; al-Arabiya TV, June 28, 2003.Moni Basu (16).
"Analysis: Al-Zawahiri takes al Qaeda's helm when influence is waning". Cable News Network.
Associated Press, "Missile Strike On Al-Zawahri Disputed", August 3, 2008.
"Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri calls the shots, says State Department". Daily News (New York). April 30, 2009.
Ackerman, Spencer (May 1, 2011). "U.S. Forces Kill Osama bin Laden". Wired News. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
"Al-Qaeda: No compromise on Palestine". AFP. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
AP (16). "Gates: Al-Zawahri is no bin Laden". The Associated Press. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
"US vows to 'capture and kill' Ayman al-Zawahiri". BBC. June 16, 2011. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
Rob Crilly (16). "Al-Qaeda's new leader could launch 'big' attack on West". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
Wanted poster for al-Zawahiri, Rewards for Justice Program, US Department of State.
Kepel, Gilles; & Jean-Pierre Milelli (2010), Al Qaeda in its own words, Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London, ISBN 978-0-674-02804-3.
 Mansfield, Laura (2006), His Own Words: A Translation of the Writings of Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri, Lulu Pub.
 al-Zawahiri, Ayman, L'absolution, Milelli, Villepreux, ISBN 978-2-916590-05-9 (French translation of Al-Zawahiri's latest book).
 Ibrahim, Raymond (2007), The Al Qaeda Reader, Broadway Books, ISBN 9780767922623.
The Man Behind Bin Laden, Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, September 16, 2002
 Al-Zawahiri: US faces Afghan, Iraq defeat, Aljazeera English, September 9, 2004
 Ayman Al-Zawahiri's Knights under the Prophet's Banner: the al-Qaeda Manifesto, Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, Military Review, January–February 2005
 report on the al-Zarqawi video tape, CNN, January 2006

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