Al-Zawahiri, the surgeon who turned al-Qaeda into a global terror factory


The right-hand man of Osama bin Laden and later his successor, Al-Zawahiri, developed an international terrorist network under his obsession with attacking the United States and its allies

The gates of jihad opened to Ayman al-Zawahiri when he was a young doctor in a Cairo slum when a client made him a tempting offer: the chance to help Islamist fighters fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

In 1980, Al-Zawahiri embarked on a three-decade life that would lead him to the world’s most feared terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Al-Zawahiri was already a seasoned militant who had been seeking the overthrow of Egypt’s “infidel” regime since he was 15 years old. He spent a few weeks in the Afghan war zone, long enough to open his eyes to new possibilities. What he saw was “the training that prepared young Muslim mujahideen to fight against the great power that ruled the world: the United States,” he wrote in a biography manifested in 2001. And that became his mission.

Al-Zawahiri was the driving force behind the jihadist movement in the United States. Under his leadership, the terrorist network Al-Qaeda carried out the deadliest attack on US soil, the September 11, 2001 suicide bombings on the Twin Towers.

The attacks made bin Laden the most dangerous enemy in the world, although he probably could not have carried them out without the help of al-Zawahiri.

From there, the jihadist would expand his struggle across the Middle East. In the 1980s, between Pakistan and Afghanistan, fighting the Soviets, he met a charismatic, strict Saudi and, like him, from a wealthy family. It was about Osama bin Laden. From that union, a fledgling al-Qaeda would be born: the first global jihadist organization.

Although bin Laden came from a very influential Saudi family, his lieutenant had gained experience from his childhood. Bin Laden provided al-Qaeda with the charisma and money, but al-Zawahiri provided the tactical and organizational skills needed to turn the gang’s members into an international network of terrorists infiltrating countries around the world. “Bin Laden always looked up to him,” said Georgetown University terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman. The two met during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

In 2001, the United States attacked Al-Qaeda’s hideout in this country, but Al-Zawahiri managed to get out alive. He fled to the border area with Pakistan and organized the militias. She also became the public face of the movement. He was responsible for sending his own, and the whole world, a constant stream of recorded messages, while bin Laden remained hidden and hidden from international intelligence.

With his thick beard and thick-rimmed glasses, the head of the militia became a pedantic and arrogant leader, whose decisions were no room for discussion. Several senior Al Qaeda officials began questioning him, believing him to be too controlling, secretive and divisive, unlike bin Laden.

Under his leadership, however, the organization grew into a global terror network. Not only did he plan attacks in several countries from his headquarters, but in the decade after 9/11, Al-Qaida infiltrated dozens of countries, especially the most unstable, created a large number of cells and guerrilla fighters, and directly participated in attacks around the world. Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe, including the Madrid and 2005 London bombings.

When bin Laden was assassinated in Pakistan in May 2011, al-Qaida proclaimed al-Zawahiri its new leader. The war on the United States “doesn’t end with the death of a commander,” the new leader said three months after bin Laden’s death.

The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings threatened to deal a heavy blow to al-Qaeda, demonstrating that jihad was not the only way to get rid of the Arab autocrats. But Al-Zawahiri tried to control them by influencing the insurgent population.

The late leader was born on June 19, 1951, to a family of upper-middle-class doctors and academics in Cairo. His father taught pharmacology and his grandfather, Rabia Al-Zawahiri, was the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, an important center for religious studies. At an early age, Al-Zawahiri began reading the radical writings of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian Islamist who taught that Arab regimes were “infidels” and should be replaced by Islamic rule.

In the 1970s, when he received his medical degree, he was active in militant circles and merged his own militant cell with others to form the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.

After the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by members of his own gang, he was arrested along with hundreds of other militants and spent three years in prison. During his imprisonment, he was reportedly severely tortured, which contributed to his becoming more violent and radical.

After his release in 1984, Al-Zawahiri returned to Afghanistan, where he rejoined bin Laden and followed him to his new base in Sudan. There he led Islamic Jihad in a violent series of bombings to overthrow the government of Egypt, then an ally of the United States. A failed attempt to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak in 1995 crushed the jihadist movement in Egypt and Al-Zawahiri joined al-Qaeda. However, he continued to use the tactics he used in his old organization to carry out his attacks.

He promoted suicide attacks that would later become the hallmark of al-Qaeda, including the devastating 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. More than 200 people were killed in these actions.

In 1996, Sudan expelled bin Laden, who along with Al-Zawahiri led his fighters back to Afghanistan, where they found shelter under the Taliban regime.

Two years later, their bond was sealed when bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and other militant leaders issued the “Declaration of Jihad” against Jews and Crusaders. In the message, they declared the United States to be Islam’s main enemy and urged Muslims to fulfill their religious duty to “kill Americans and their allies.”

Shortly after the Muslim alliance, the attacks on US embassies in Africa took place, followed by the suicide attack on the destroyer USS Cole, which anchored off Yemen in 2000. Al-Zawahiri is believed to have helped organize this action. The CIA nearly captured him in 2003 and shot him a year later. In 2009 the intelligence services also gave him up for dead.

However, after the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan last year, the agencies discovered that members of al-Qaeda, including al-Zawahiri, who were apparently ill, had settled in the capital of Kabul. It coincided with several messages from the leader stating that the organization was now “more effective” than ever. In part, it was the response to a progressive weakening caused by various factors, such as the serious setback suffered by the Al-Qaeda section in Saudi Arabia in 2006 or the brutal attacks propagated by the gang against Iraqi Shiites and Al-Qaeda itself called for Zawahiri’s arrest for damaging the group’s image among Muslims. With his obsession with attacking the United States and its allies, Al-Zawahiri really garnered the loyalty of the most radical sympathizers.

Source: La Verdad


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