Who is Ayman al Zawahiri the head of al Qaeda that evaded capture for decades

FILE – This frame grab from video shows al-Qaida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a videotape issued Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006. The leader of al-Qaida has called for attacks on Saudi Arabia after the kingdom’s mass execution of 47 people in January, many of whom were tied to the terror group. Al-Zawahiri’s comments came in a seven-minute audio recording released earlier this week and reported by a U.S.-based terror monitor, the SITE Intelligence Group, on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (militant photo via G3 Box News video, File) Anonymous/G3 Box News

Who is Ayman al Zawahiri the head of al Qaeda that evaded capture for decades

Ryan King

August 01, 06:33 PM August 01, 06:35 PM

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Over a decade ago, when Navy Seals raided Osama bin Laden’s compound and brought the 9/11 terrorist attack mastermind to justice, Ayman al Zawahiri assumed the reigns of the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Zawahiri, who has long been shrouded in mystery, served as al Qaeda’s No. 2 when the terrorist network orchestrated the infamous 9/11 attack that killed roughly 3,000 Americans. Now, reports are indicating that United States forces conducted a missile strike in Afghanistan that killed the al Qaeda leader who had evaded justice for decades.


Many foreign policy experts remained perplexed as to how Zawahiri managed to avoid getting captured or killed by the United States or allied forces for so long. His reported death comes over a decade after bin Laden was killed and navy seals amassed a vast trove of data about al Qaeda’s inner workings from the compound.

Some had theorized that Zawahiri was already dead or in poor health. Others suspected that he was hiding in Pakistan like bin Laden, making it difficult to reach him. Authorities had fixated a $25 million bounty on his head.

Last year, after Taliban forces toppled the United States-backed government, video surfaced that appeared to show the al Qaeda leader alive and commemorating the carnage his terrorist group inflicted on 9/11. The timing of the video came weeks after the Taliban returned to power.

Speculation began to brew that the Taliban takeover could make Afghanistan more suitable for Zawahiri. Twenty years prior, the Taliban had been accused of harboring al Qaeda, which served as part of the justification for the U.S. invasion following 9/11. With the Taliban back in power, some national security experts feared that the Taliban would enable terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS-K to flourish in the region.

Zawahiri was born in Egypt in 1951 to a well-off family. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist, as a teenager and began plotting to overthrow Egypt’s government in favor of establishing a Muslim theocracy, according to the Washington Post. During his youthful machinations, he cultivated a band of followers that eventually became known as the Jamaat al-Jihad.

In 1981, he was arrested following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat and claims to have been tortured in prison, according to the book Al-Zawahiri as I Knew Him. The arrest was made due to his ties to al-Jihad. Eventually, he was released because authorities lacked evidence that he was part of the conspiracy to kill Sadat, per the Brookings Institute.

Following his release, he is believed to have engaged in multiple terrorist schemes across the world, including in Pakistan, Sudan, and Afghanistan. During the 1980s, he made multiple trips to Afghanistan, where he would eventually collaborate with bin Laden, according to the Department of Defense. The two collaborated on efforts to subvert the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

By the 1990s, Zawahiri’s al-Jihad merged with al-Qaeda, which was bigger in size and had more financial resources. In 1998, Zawahiri was indicted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings that had killed hundreds in several East African cities. That attack propelled Zawahiri into the international spotlight alongside bin Laden.

G3 Box News

Three years later, the two were credited with masterminding the 9/11 attack. In a letter to the U.S., bin Laden outlined several motivations for the attack, including U.S. support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, sanctions on Iraq, and more.

With Zawahiri reportedly out of the picture, U.S. and allied forces have succeeded in killing or capturing almost all of the high-profile al Qaeda members during the time surrounding the 9/11 attack.

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