Who was al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Zawahiri, 71, was a key architect behind multiple attacks on the US, and was “deeply involved” in the planning of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Biden said.

“People around the world no longer need to fear the cruel and determined killer. The United States continues to demonstrate our determination and ability to defend the American people against those who want to harm us,” Biden said from the Blue Room. White House balcony.

Here’s what you need to know about Zawahiri and the US attack against him.

Born in 1951, Zawahiri grew up in an affluent neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a prominent physician and grandson of renowned scholars.

His grandfather, Rabia’a ​​al-Zawahiri, was an imam at al-Azhar University in Cairo. His great-uncle, Abdel Rahman Azzam, was the first secretary of the Arab League.

Zawahiri was imprisoned for his involvement in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

“We want to address the whole world. Who are we? Who are we?” he said in an interview in prison.

By this time, Zawahiri, a young doctor, was already a committed terrorist who for years conspired to overthrow the Egyptian government and try to replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic rule. He proudly supported Sadat’s assassination after the Egyptian leader made peace with Israel.

What was his relationship with Osama bin Laden?

Zawahiri left Egypt in 1985 and made his way to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he worked as a surgeon and treated the fighters involved with Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

There Zawahiri met Bin Laden, a prominent Mujahedeen leader who also had a privileged upbringing to fight in Afghanistan. The two became close, united by their common bond as ‘Afghan Arabs’.

After their reunification in Afghanistan, Bin Laden and Zawahiri appeared together in early 1998 and announced the formation of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and the Crusaders – a formal merger of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda.

At one point, he acted as bin Laden’s personal doctor.

“We are working with Brother Bin Laden,” he said when announcing the merger of his terror group in May 1998. “We have known him for over ten years now. We have fought with him here in Afghanistan.”

Together, the two terror leaders signed a fatwa, or statement: “The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation on every Muslim.”

What role did Zawahiri play in Al Qaeda’s attacks on the US?

The attacks on the US and its facilities began shortly after bin Laden and Zawahiri’s fatwa, with the suicide bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people and injured more than 5,000 others.

Then there was the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000, when suicide bombers on a dinghy detonated their boat, killing 17 American sailors and injuring 39 others.

The climax of Zawahiri’s terror plans came on September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane, bound for Washington, crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back.

Before and after the September 11 attacks, Zawahiri appeared on numerous video and audio tapes calling for attacks on Western targets and urging Muslims to support his cause.

Some Egyptians traced Zawahiri’s anger toward the United States to what many Afghan Arabs believe was the CIA’s betrayal of supporting their cause after the Soviets left Afghanistan and the country slipped into tribal anarchy.

Others date Zawahiri’s anger to 1998, when US officials pushed for the extradition of some members of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad from Albania to face charges of terrorism in Egypt.

Mohammad, Zawahiri’s brother, told CNN in 2012, “Before you call me and my brother terrorists, let’s define its meaning. When it comes to those who are bloodthirsty merciless killers, this isn’t what we’re about.” going,” he said.

“We are only trying to regain some of our rights that have been hijacked by Western powers throughout history.”

When did Zawahiri start leading Al Qaeda?

Zawahiri became the leader of al-Qaeda after US troops assassinated bin Laden in 2011.

He was in constant motion when the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began after the September 11 attacks. At one point, he narrowly escaped a US attack in Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous region of Tora Bora, which killed his wife and children.

Zawahiri “was not a charismatic leader in the mold of Bin Laden,” CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen said Monday. “He turned out not to be a very competent leader of Al-Qaeda. But the reason he was killed in Afghanistan this weekend, I think, was that he started taking a lot more risks.”

“According to the United Nations, he had released an unprecedented number of videos. Every time you record a video, there’s the chain of preserving that video, getting it out, maybe someone records the video,” Bergen continued.

“So he became more and more prominent. And I think that may have been the reason he was discovered.’

A briefing by a panel of United Nations experts last week noted that Zawahiri’s apparent increased comfort and ability to communicate coincided with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the consolidation of power of key al-Qaeda allies within their territory. actual government.

Zawahiri’s last known public speech was an audio message released on July 13 by al-Qaeda’s media arm.

How did the US kill Zawahiri?

The US conducted a “precise counterterrorism operation” in Afghanistan targeting Zawahiri, who was hiding in a safehouse in Kabul, a senior government told reporters on Monday.

According to the official, at 9:48 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 30, a “precise custom airstrike” was conducted using two hellfire missiles, via an unmanned aerial attack, and was authorized by Biden after weeks of meetings with his cabinet and key advisers.

There were no US personnel on the ground in Kabul at the time of the strike.

Kevin Liptak, Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand and Donald Judd of CNN contributed to this report.

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