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Ayman al-Zawahiri is an Islamic theologian, who, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, has succeeded Osama bin Laden as al-Qaeda’s leader, following the latter’s death. Previously, Ayman al-Zawahiri was the second and last emir of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, until its merger with al-Qaeda. His new position was publicly approved in the press release of the general command of al-Qaeda issued on June 16, 2011. The U.S. State Department has offered a $25 million reward for information about location of Ayman al-Zawahiri that would lead to his apprehension.
Being a surgeon by profession, Ayman al-Zawahiri became a personal physician and advisor to Osama bin Laden after Egyptian Islamic Jihad merged with al-Qaeda. Besides being a doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri speaks several languages, including English, Arabic, and French. The United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee has imposed worldwide sanctions on Al-Zawahiri due to his activities as a member of al-Qaeda.
The 1998 merger of al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad became a turning point in the life of Ayman al-Zawahiri. According to some sources, Ayman al-Zawahiri has been an active member of al-Qaeda, having worked in the organization since its inception. Oftentimes, his relevance in al-Qaeda was even compared to that of Osama bin Laden.Therefore, it was not surprising that Ayman al-Zawahiri was appointed as a new leader of the terrorist organization in June 2011, soon after the murder of Osama bin Laden in May 2011
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Social Background of Ayman al-Zawahiri
Religious and philosophical views of Ayman al-Zawahiri were considerablly influenced by people that have surrounded him since his childhood. Ayman was born to an upper middle class family in Maadi, a suburb of the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s parents were his first teachers who shaped a lot of his views. His father, Mohammed al-Zawahiri, originally came from a long dynasty of scholars and doctors. Ayman’s father was both a military doctor and professor of medicine, who worked at Cairo University. His mother, Umayma Azzam, originally came from a politically active clan and had a substantial impact on the formation and shaping of his ideas. Moreover, Ayman’s uncle, Mahfouz Azzam, made his contribution to the development of his ideology.
Ayman al-Zawahiri has been active in politics since his early years. After turning 14, he had become a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the execution of Muhammad Qutb on charges of conspiracy, Ayman al-Zawahiri and four of his fellow students had taken charge of the Muslim Brotherhood’s operations. It was at this point that Ayman al-Zawahiri had realized his political goal and mission in life. In time, the Muslim Brotherhood has joined other political cells and formed the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
Ayman al-Zawahiri was studying well at school and ranked among the top students of his class. In 1974, he graduated from Cairo University and worked for three years as a military doctor in the Egyptian Army. After being discharged from the military, he had opened a private medical clinic. Simultaneously with medical work, he continued his studies and received his master’s in surgery in 1978.
Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Family
Ayman al-Zawahiri married Azza Ahmed Nowari in 1978. Both of them were students at Cairo University. Due to the strict religious views held by both families, Ayman’s wedding ceremony was very conservative. Held at the Continental Hotel in Opera Square, it featured no music or photographers. Female and male guests were separated according to the religious tradition.
Ayman al-Zawahiri and his wife had five children - four daughters (Nabila, Umayma, Fatima, and Khadiga) and a son (Mohammed). Ten years after the birth of Mohammed, Ayman and Azza had another daughter, Aisha, who had Down syndrome. Both Aisha and Ayman’s wife, Azza, were murdered by the Americans in the fall of 2001, soon after the attack of 9/11. The U.S. troops had bombarded buildings in the city of Gardez. During the bombardment, Azza was crushed to death by the debris of the collapsed guesthouse. Being still alive, Azza refused to be saved, as men would be able to see her face. Even though her little daughter Aisha was not directly hurt in the attack, she had died from hypothermia, while waiting for being rescued by Afghan troops.
Al-Qaeda’s Affiliated Activities
Soon after the attacks of 9/11, Ayman al-Zawahiri was included on the list of 22 terrorists most wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. This was followed by the official granting of citizenship to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists by the Taliban government.
After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s location has been unknown. It is believed that he is hiding somewhere in the tribal regions of Pakistan. After 2003, Ayman al-Zawahiri has been releasing video messages of himself on a regular basis. Those also featured Osama bin Laden before his assasination. Ayman was reported to have been placed under arrest in Iran in 2003, but this information has never been confirmed. In 2004, the Pakistani Army had launched a large-scale military operation in Wana (Pakistan). There were reports stating that Ayman al-Zawahiri had been trapped during the operation. However, it was found out later that Ayman had either managed to escape imprisonment or never been trapped. Ayman became a major target of the Joint Counterintelligence Bureau of the Inter-Services Intelligence as the conflict extended to the tribal areas of western Pakistan.
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Aided by the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the U.S. military had launched air attacks on Damadola in January 2006. The Central Intelligence Agency believed that Ayman al-Zawahiri was hiding in that small Pakistani village located close to the border with Afghanistan. The air attack was supposed to murder Ayman al-Zawahiri, but it only resulted in a lot of people being killed and disfigured beyond recognition. It was reported, however, that several terrorists were killed in the course of the air attacks. A number of anti-American protests took place across the whole country, while the Pakistani government severely criticized the U.S. troops for murdering innocent people. In a few months, Ayman al-Zawahiri released another video showing him alive and well.
Summing up, Ayman al-Zawahiri is the current leader of al Qaeda and one of the most wanted terrorists in the world. Ayman was born to the family that professed very conservative religious beliefs. His parents and relatives have considerably influenced his philosophical, religious, and political ideas. He became active in politics at an early age and has participated in a number of organizations ever since. Due to his active political position and excellent strategic skills he has become a leader of the Islamic movement.
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