Ayman al-Zawahri, the Egyptian-born surgeon-turned-jihadist who assumed the management of Al Qaeda after the killing of Osama bin Weighted down and who died at 71 in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, over the weekend, in step with U.S. officers, led a lifestyles steeped in secrecy, betrayal, conspiracy and violence, maximum murderously within the 11th of September assaults towards the US in 2001.

Whilst Bin Weighted down, who used to be killed by means of an American raid in 2011, used to be extensively noticed because the terrorist mastermind of the ones assaults, many counterterrorism mavens regarded as Mr. al-Zawahri extra accountable.

Together with his white turban and dense, grey beard, his brow marked by means of the bruising prized by means of some Muslims as denoting piety from common prayer, Mr. al-Zawahri had little of Bin Weighted down’s air of mystery and none of his get entry to to fabled circle of relatives wealth. However he used to be extensively depicted because the highbrow backbone of Al Qaeda — its leader working officer, its public members of the family govt, and a profound affect who helped the Saudi-born Bin Weighted down develop from a charismatic preacher into a perilous terrorist with international succeed in.

In an interview in Would possibly 2011 with the Investigative Undertaking on Terrorism, a analysis crew, Tawfik Hamid, a former Islamist militant who now research the topic, stated that of the 2 males, Mr. al-Zawahri used to be a extra influential chief. “While you concentrate to him, you’ll inform obviously that he has the ambition and is devoted one hundred pc to reach this venture,” Mr. Hamid stated.

Throughout his management of Al Qaeda, the group’s international affect waned because the Islamic State rose. However the crew remained a risk, with associates in different nations wearing out assaults. And Mr. al-Zawahri, to whom all of them swore allegiance, used to be nonetheless one of the vital global’s most-wanted terrorists at his loss of life.

From his teenage years in an upscale suburb of Cairo, Mr. al-Zawahri led a cat-and-mouse life, serving jail phrases in Egypt and Russia and hunted by means of adversaries, together with U.S. counterterrorism government, who positioned a $25 million bounty on his head.

But he appeared at all times to stick one step forward, hiding out within the craggy redoubts of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal spaces.

Over the years, his targets and beliefs developed from a visceral hatred of secular rule in Egypt, the place he used to be amongst the ones attempted for conspiracy within the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, to a virulent marketing campaign to strike on the so-called “a long way enemy,” the US, Al Qaeda’s goal of desire.

The gang’s tactical power lay in its skill to release impressive attacks, beginning with the simultaneous assaults at the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and the suicide bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000, and culminating within the assaults on New York and Washington in 2001 that resulted in the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Within the following decade, American counterterrorism government pursued Bin Weighted down and Mr. al-Zawahri, his deputy and selected successor. Drone moves decimated Al Qaeda’s management in a sustained effort to degrade the group and avenge the 11th of September assaults. On a minimum of one instance, Mr. al-Zawahri used to be stated to have died, handiest to resurface within the sporadic video and audiotapes that unfold his message.

In Would possibly 2011, a Army SEAL staff killed Bin Weighted down in a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. For a greater than a month, Al Qaeda used to be silent on its long term management.

Then Mr. al-Zawahri put out a 28-minute video of himself. With a rifle within the background and creating a slicing movement along with his hand, he promised that Bin Weighted down would proceed to “terrify” The us after his loss of life.

“Blood for blood,” he stated.

By way of that point, a more recent technology of jihadists had grown, first within the chaos of Iraq after the American invasion, after which spreading to Syria after civil battle broke in the market in 2011.

Within the resulting mayhem, the Islamic State rose to prominence as a brand new beacon of jihadist zeal, attracting tens of 1000’s of fans with its media-savvy, internet-age messages, its slick movies of beheadings and its seize of enormous swaths of territory during which it declared a brand new caliphate for the sector’s Muslims.

Shorn of its iconic chief, Al Qaeda, in contrast, were compelled to desert its centralized command construction whilst its associates, in particular in Yemen and Syria, pledged allegiance to Mr. al-Zawahri in a polishing and bloody feud with the Islamic State, which, satirically, had begun as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Each teams have been rooted in Sunni Muslim extremism. However the distinctions between them have been legion. Whilst the Islamic State sought hegemony amongst jihadist teams and thirsted for territorial growth, Al Qaeda’s associates confirmed expanding readiness to cooperate with different teams and little urge for food for profession.

Mr. al-Zawahri castigated the Islamic State and its leaders for his or her apply of killing Shiite Muslim civilians, fearing that such killings would taint the jihadist reason amongst Muslims. And whilst Islamic State disciples strengthened the gang’s popularity for brutality thru movies of the decapitations of Western hostages and different acts of savagery, Mr. al-Zawahri adverse such shows, it sounds as if to steer clear of alienating attainable supporters.

Sajjan M. Gohel, a expert in world terrorism primarily based in London, wrote that Mr. al-Zawahri used to be glad to let the Islamic State face assaults by means of U.S.-backed coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, giving Al Qaeda the distance to “reconstitute its infrastructure and networks around the Islamic global” and revive its long-term objective of hanging goals within the West.

In 2015, Mr. al-Zawahri performed what he calculated can be a successful card in his crew’s revival, introducing to fans Hamza bin Weighted down, a son of the Al Qaeda founder, and describing him in an audio recording as a “lion from Al Qaeda’s den.” Within the broadcast, Hamza bin Weighted down exhorted jihadists to hold out “the best possible collection of assaults” on Western towns. A 12 months later, in a message aimed toward The us titled “We’re all Osama,” Hamza bin Weighted down issued a non-public enchantment to avenge his father.

“Yours shall be a harsh reckoning,” he stated. “We’re a country that doesn’t relaxation over injustice.”

Hamza bin Weighted down were amongst a bunch of Bin Weighted down kinfolk who took shelter in Iran after the 11th of September assaults, held beneath space arrest preparations of various severity. Some analysts believed that he used to be not more than a figurehead whose utterances have been meant to entice more youthful jihadists from the Islamic State.

In step with Mr. Gohel, Hamza bin Weighted down had a minimum of two other halves, together with a daughter of Mr. al-Zawahri’s who bore two kids, linking the 2 households in a “strategic marriage alliance.”

Hamza bin Weighted down used to be killed in a counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan someday in 2017 or 2018, American officers stated.

Mr. al-Zawahri’s deputies have been additionally picked off. Abu al-Khayr al-Masri used to be killed by means of a U.S. drone strike in Syria in 2017. A successor, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by means of the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, used to be killed by means of Israeli operatives in Tehran in 2020.

In 2021, just about twenty years after the US invaded Afghanistan to force Al Qaeda out, the Taliban retook keep an eye on of the rustic and gave its best friend, Al Qaeda, protected haven. Mr. al-Zawahri duly returned.

Ayman Muhammad Rabie al-Zawahri, certainly one of 5 kids, used to be born on June 19, 1951, in Maadi, a Cairo suburb. His father used to be a pharmacology professor whose uncle were grand imam of Al Azhar, a 1,000-year-old college that could be a middle of Islamic studying.

His mom’s father used to be president of Cairo College, founder and director of King Saud College in Riyadh and an envoy to Saudi Arabia and different nations. Every other of her kinfolk used to be the primary secretary common of the Arab League.

In spite of its prominence, the circle of relatives displayed little glaring prosperity and not owned a automotive till Ayman used to be grown. Lawrence Wright, in his guide “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Highway to 9/11” (2006), stated that the al-Zawahris’ reclusive, conservative, even backward tactics brought about them to be perceived as “hicks.”

Mr. al-Zawahri used to be an excellent scholar when he used to be no longer having a pipe dream and adverse touch sports activities as inhumane. He started studying Islamist literature at an early age. One monumental affect used to be Sayyid Qutb, an Islamic philosopher who noticed the sector diametrically divided between believers and infidels. (He incorporated average Muslims a few of the infidels.) Qutb used to be imprisoned and tortured in Egypt and hanged there in 1966.

“In al-Zawahri’s eyes, Sayyid Qutb’s phrases struck younger Muslims extra deeply than the ones of his contemporaries as a result of his phrases in the end resulted in his execution,” Montasser al-Zayyat, an Islamic radical and attorney, wrote in “The Highway to Al Qaeda: The Tale of Bin Weighted down’s Proper-Hand Guy” (2004).

Every other affect used to be the humiliating defeat the Arab nations suffered by the hands of Israel in 1967. It became many younger folks clear of the Pan-Arab socialism pursued by means of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and towards anti-Western kinds of Islam.

In 1966, Mr. al-Zawahri helped shape an underground militant mobile devoted to changing Egypt’s secular govt with an Islamic one. He used to be 15.

To start with there have been 5 individuals. By way of 1974 there have been 40. Mr. al-Zawahri saved his involvement secret from even his circle of relatives whilst he attended clinical college at Cairo College. He graduated in 1974, served 3 years within the military and earned a grasp’s stage in surgical procedure in 1978.

Via his and her households, Mr. al-Zawahri met Azza Nowair, who, Mr. Wright wrote, got here from a well-off background. He prompt that during all over again she would possibly had been a certified or a socialite. However she had transform deeply spiritual, wore a veil and spent entire nights studying the Quran.

After they have been married in 1979, Mr. al-Zawahri had noticed her face precisely as soon as. On the rite, there have been males’s and girls’s sections. On the bride’s request, there used to be no song or images.

In October 2001, quickly after the assaults on The us, Azza al-Zawahri and a minimum of certainly one of their kids have been killed by means of bombardments in Afghanistan. Wounded, she had refused to be pulled from the rubble, information accounts of the bombardment stated, for concern that rescuers would see her face — an offense towards Islamic modesty. Revealed experiences have stated that that they had 4 daughters and a son.

Mr. al-Zawahri used to be running in a health facility in Egypt in 1980 when he seized a possibility to visit Peshawar, Pakistan, for the Crimson Crescent, the Muslim correlate of the Crimson Move, to regard refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. He visited Afghanistan and known it as a excellent position to release a jihad, returning again and again.

When he used to be arrested in 1981 for conspiring to homicide Mr. Sadat, he used to be slapped by means of the executive of police. Mr. al-Zawahri slapped him again.

At his trial, at the side of masses of others, he used to be convicted handiest of gun ownership. However because the trial proceeded for just about 3 years, he used to be time and again tortured in jail. Underneath interrogation, he published the identify, actions and whereabouts of certainly one of his collaborators, a soldier, which resulted in the person’s arrest.

In an interview with The New Yorker in 2002, Mr. Zayyat, the attorney for plenty of Islamist activists, prompt that the guilt Mr. al-Zawahri felt over this betrayal used to be a big reason why for his leaving Egypt after he used to be launched in 1984.

His adventure took him to Saudi Arabia after which, in 1986, again to Peshawar, the place Bin Weighted down occasionally lectured on the medical institution the place Mr. al-Zawahri labored. Mr. al-Zawahri changed into Bin Weighted down’s non-public doctor, arrange a safety pressure round him and helped the Saudi start fascinated by particular tactics to harm the Western powers and the Center Japanese governments they supported.

“When Ayman met Bin Weighted down, he created a revolution inside him,” Mr. Zayyat advised The New Yorker. The deal used to be easy: Mr. al-Zawahri would provide the political acumen and an informed management cadre to show Bin Weighted down’s free coalition, and his personal unformed impulses, into an tool of mass homicide. Bin Weighted down supplied cash and status.

Mr. Zayyat, who as soon as shared an Egyptian jail mobile with Mr. al-Zawahri, wrote that he used to be satisfied that Mr. al-Zawahri used to be extra accountable than Bin Weighted down for the assaults on the US, a view shared by means of many counterterrorism mavens.

In 1998, Mr. al-Zawahri wrote a report meant to unite militant teams within the not unusual reason for killing American citizens any place, no longer simply within the Center East. In 2001, his group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, formally merged with Bin Weighted down’s Qaeda community to create Qaeda al Jihad.

Mr. al-Zawahri had the sophisticated activity of explaining Al Qaeda’s deviation from Islamic teachings that limit killing blameless folks, in particular Muslims, and that bar suicide. He maintained {that a} martyr’s true religion reversed those prohibitions.

“In step with him the vast majority of Muslims world wide don’t seem to be Muslim,” Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Idea in London, advised Time mag. “His concepts negate the life of not unusual flooring with others, without reference to faith.”

Mr. al-Zawahri changed into acquainted to the sector as the person sitting at Bin Weighted down’s facet in movies, and, later, by means of himself.

Credit score…IntelCenter, by way of Related Press

His flip of word shone in his greeting to President Barack Obama in 2008: “Bear in mind that the canines of Afghanistan have discovered the flesh of your infantrymen to be scrumptious, so ship 1000’s after 1000’s to them.”

However he may additionally suggest moderation, if public members of the family required it. In 2005, he wrote Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq, that he will have to prevent attacking mosques and making movies of beheadings. In 2003, he scrubbed a plan to flood New York subway tunnels with cyanide as a result of, he stated, it “used to be no longer sufficiently inspiring.”

By way of 1990, Islamist guerrillas, sponsored by means of Pakistan and the C.I.A., had compelled the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and the Arabs who had come to struggle the Soviets have been leaving. Sudan’s govt invited Bin Weighted down there. He and Mr. al-Zawahri purchased farms in Sudan and transformed them into army coaching bases. In addition they established camps in Yemen.

Mr. al-Zawahri arranged a number of terrorist acts, together with an assassination try at the Egyptian top minister. The bomb ignored its goal, however 21 folks have been wounded and a 12-year-old schoolgirl used to be killed.

In November 1995, Mr. al-Zawahri dispatched suicide bombers to explode the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. When they succeeded, Egyptian intelligence blackmailed two teenage boys and used them to plant listening gadgets in properties of Islamic Jihad individuals. One boy used to be meant to depart a suitcase stuffed with explosives close to Mr. al-Zawahri.

However the Sudanese government arrested each boys. Mr. al-Zawahri persuaded the government to unlock them in order that he may interrogate them. He then attempted them for treason, convicted them and killed them, earlier than circulating a tape in their confessions.

Many Islamists became towards Mr. al-Zawahri, and Sudan expelled him and his group. The Arab radicals returned to Afghanistan.

In 1996, Mr. al-Zawahri smuggled himself into the Russian republic of Chechnya, however used to be apprehended on the border and detained, in step with a memo received by means of The Wall Side road Magazine. The Russians failed to spot him and launched him.

In 1995 and 1996, a chain of bombings in Saudi Arabia killed American citizens. In 1998, Mr. al-Zawahri commissioned a learn about on Jewish affect in the US; it resulted in the US’ being officially put on Islamic Jihad’s checklist of appropriate goals. Bin Weighted down used to be so happy that he raised Islamic Jihad’s annual price range from $300,000 to $500,000.

Because of the founding report written by means of Mr. al-Zawahri, the Global Islamic Entrance for Jihad at the Jews and Crusaders used to be shaped in February 1998, combining the organizations of Bin Weighted down and Mr. al-Zawahri. Its objective: kill American citizens in all places.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.



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