Birthday: June 19, 1951
Age: 69 Years, 69 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri
Born in: Maadi, Egypt
Notorious As: Terrorist
Spouse/Ex-: Azza Ahmed (m. 1978–2001), her death), Umaima Hassan
father: Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri
mother: Umayma Azzam
siblings: Heba Mohamed al-Zawahiri, Muhammad al-Zawahiri
children: Aisha Al-Zawahiri, Fatima Al-Zawahiri, Khadiga Al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Al-Zawahiri, Nabila Al-Zawahiri, Nawwar Al-Zawahiri, Umayma Al-Zawahiri
education: Cairo University
Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?
One of the most wanted terrorists in FBI’s list, Ayman al-Zawahiri served as Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man for many years, before becoming the leader of al-Qaeda, after Osama’s death. He is also known to be one of the brains behind the deadly 9/11 attacks on the USA. A well educated man, Zawahiri was born in Egypt and graduated as a surgeon from the Cairo University before joining hands with Osama, in his pursuit of destroying the world peace, wearing the garb of radical Islam. Before meeting Osama, he was a part of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and merged it with al-Qaeda in 1998. For his Jihad activities, he has been tried in Egypt and was given a death sentence. In the US embassy attacks of 1998, he got into the America’s most wanted list for the first time. The search for Ayman led the USA conduct several operations, and he was considered dead after the bombings in Pakistan’s Damadola in 2006. But he emerged with a video tape condemning the USA and its actions. The US government has offered a USD 25 million bounty on Zawahiri but there are still no definite leads about his whereabouts. In 2011, after Osama’s death, he was chosen as the new leader of al-Qaeda and in 2012, he proclaimed that all the Muslims must kidnap the western tourists as an act of revenge for their leader, Osama Bin Laden.
Childhood & Early Life
Ayman al-Zawahiri was born on 19th June 1951 in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, in a wealthy and prosperous Zawahiri family. His father was a famed surgeon, Mohammad Rabie al-Zawahiri, and a professor of pharmacy at the Cairo University. Ayman’s mother Umayma Azzam also hailed from a highly respected family. Coming from a family of doctors and scholars, Ayman was expected to perform well in academics, which he certainly did.
Ayman was a studious kid and loved poetry and art, while quite surprisingly, he hated violent sports and said that they were immoral and no fun at all. He went on to study medicine at the Cairo University and graduated as a surgeon in 1974. He followed it up with a master’s degree in 1978 and three years of work experience with Egyptian military. His experience with young student movements sowed the first seeds of radical Islam in his psyche and rest was done by his later experience of working alongside his uncle Mahfouz Azzam, where his sensibilities regarding establishing an Islamic state grew further.
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He had started his terrorist activities with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and he was one of the many accused of plotting the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The president was keen on tying up with Israel and ignored the demands of radical Muslims, which ultimately resulted into his assassination.
Zawahiri took the spotlight as the leader of the group while the trial was underway and he said that they were trying to establish an Islamic state, but the lack of evidence freed Ayman of the assassination charges, but he was sent to jail for three years in 1981 for other minor offences. That particular experience in jail, where he was brutally beaten up by the authorities, changed his mind set and once he was out of the prison in 1985, he left for Saudi Arabia and continued with his practice as a surgeon with a bitter heart.
Ayman met Osama for the first time while he was practicing as an eye surgeon in Jeddah. He met Osama in 1986, and once they sat down and talked, their ideologies resonated, and Ayman started serving as Osama’s personal advisor and physician. Inspired by Osama, he moved to Pakistan and Afghanistan to employ militants for Egyptian Islamic Jihad and as Afghanistan was under Soviet occupation in those days, he got arrested for a few months.
However, by this time the EIJ had been mostly curbed down, but when it re-emerged in 1993, Zawahiri became its leader and plotted several attacks, which included the attack on Egyptian Prime Minister Atif Sidqi. Their constant attacks in Egypt in pursuit of destroying the central governance to establish an Islamic state took lives of more than 1200 innocent people. By the end of the 90s, he was considered among the most dreaded terrorists and sentenced to death in Absentia by an Egyptian Military court.
While coming up with attacks in Egypt and nearby states, Zawahiri kept touring the world in search of sanctuaries and possible sources to fund his group’s activities. Ayman travelled many western and European countries with fake names and passports/visas but finally got arrested in 1996 in Chechnya, Russia. In April 2017, he, along with his two associates, was imprisoned for six months. They were, however, released a month later and ran off without even paying their attorney.
He was unsuccessful in securing funding and by 1997 he became too disheartened due to lack of support.
Ayman al-Zawahiri met Osama along with other radical Muslim leaders in 1998 and they joined hands to make themselves strong. And soon enough, Zawahiri became the brains of al-Qaeda and under his guidance the attacks were plotted in African countries. US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked killing more than 200 people. As a reflex action, the US bombed the supposed training camps of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the very next day, a US journalist got a phone call from Zawahiri in which he proclaimed that the war had just begun.
The attacks of 9/11 were said to be his brainchild and the ultimate act of war against the USA, which maddened the United States so much that bombings in Afghanistan on the alleged whereabouts of Osama and Zawahiri became frequent. In one of such bombings, Zawahiri’s wife and children were killed.
His hatred toward Israel and the USA was evident on the videotapes he released throughout the 2010s and Zawahiri urged Muslims around the world to take charge and strike the embassies of the USA, the UK and Norway along with many middle eastern states he called the ‘puppets of the US government’. He also accepted al-Qaeda’s hand in the London bombings of 2005 and held Tony Blair responsible for the attacks.
In April 2009, the US intelligence reports stated that al-Zawahiri has emerged the commander of al-Qaeda and Osama is reduced to just an ideological figure. At the time of Osama’s death in mid 2011, a senior US intelligence officer claimed that Osama was still the chief of the group and Zawahiri just served as an advisor and the right hand man of Osama. The leadership of al-Qaeda was in question after Osama’s death, and Zawahiri was not very popular among Osama’s followers and despite a mild protest, he was named the leader in May 2011.
In September 2014, Zawahiri announced the foundation of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent and urged the Muslims to take charge and make their lands pure by killing off the ‘kaafirs’. His discontent with the activities in Syria including the ISI is apparent and he urged the group to leave Syria and said that their presence was required more in Iran. Upon their refusal, he severed all his ties with the group.
In 1978, Ayman al-Zawahiri married for the first time to Azza Ahmed Nowari, a philosophy student at the Cairo University and had five daughters with her - Fatima, Umayma, Nabila, Khadiga, Aisha and a son named Mohammed, with whom he wasn’t too happy. The reports say that his son was a shy, introvert and a ‘girly’ boy who loved helping his mother in house.
Ayman has married a total of four times and fathered many children. His first wife, Azza, along with two of her children, was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan in December 2001, aimed at killing Zawahiri.
Ayman is a hardcore Islamist and followed the traditional practice of keeping his wives under cover, if it wasn’t for it, his wife Azza would have been saved. The onlookers claimed that she could have been rescued, but she refused other men to touch her, and died from the fatal injuries and bleeding the very next day.
Although he is a fiery man, it is a well-known fact that the followers don’t respect him as much as Osama. He lacks the charm that Osama had, and despite that, his group keeps following their leader and he has become the most wanted terrorist in the world.
Ayman al-Zawahiri has written three books titled ‘Knights under Prophet’s Banner’, ‘World Islamic Front Statement’ and ‘Fatawa of Osama Bin Laden’. He also keeps releasing video tapes and giving interviews urging Muslims to participate in their efforts of cleansing the world of non-Muslims and create an ideal world for themselves.