Ayman al-Zawahiri: Vice President of al-Qaeda

Ayman al-Zawahir
Abu Muhammad, Abu Fatima, Muhammad Ibrahim, Abu Abdallah, Abu al-Mu'iz, The Doctor, The Teacher, Nur, Ustaz, Abu Mohammed, Abu Mohammed Nur al-Deen, Abdel Muaz, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri.
- Date of Birth: June 19, 1951.
- Place of Birth: Egypt
- Citizenship: Egyptian
- Languages:Arabic; French
- Hair: Brown/Black
- Eyes: Dark
Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?
Ayman al-Zawahiri (born, June 19, 1951) is often referred to as second-in-command of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, behind Osama bin Laden. He is perhaps better understood as a direct counterpart of bin Laden's—in a way, each made the other's role possible. Zawahiri, an ideological firebrand of Egyptian birth, helped bin Laden structure his political ideas and projects, and in return bin Laden bankrolled Zawahiri's preexisting campaign of militancy.
In 1978 he married his wife Azza Ahmed Nowari, who was studying philosophy at Cairo University. Their wedding, at the Continental Hotel in Opera Square, was very pious, with separate areas for both men and women, and no music, photographs, or light hearted humour. Many years later, when the United States attacked Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks in 2001, Azza denied ever knowing that Zawahiri had been a jihadi emir (commander) for the last decade, although at least one acquaintance is skeptical of her ignorance of this fact.
How did Zawahiri become involved with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda?
Zawahiri and bin Laden's history of collaboration began in the city of Peshawar, in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, in 1980. Zawahiri, a surgeon, was working for the Red Crescent Society, the Islamic correlate of the Red Cross. Bin Laden had come to Peshawar to raise money. The city, a haven for Afghani refugees fleeing Soviet occupation and the home of a relatively open black-market for weapons and narcotics, was bristling with militant Islamist sentiment.
Zawahiri had been active organizing Islamic extremists since he was fifteen, when he became the leader of a small group of student militants dedicated to overthrowing Gamal Abdel Nasser's secular Egyptian government. Upon meeting bin Laden, he at once understood the wealthy Saudi's potential usefulness to his own personal ambitions. In 1980, experts say, bin Laden was politically motivated but ideologically malleable. And, of course, he was very, very rich.

What is Zawahiri’s role in al-Qaeda?
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Zawahiri functions as al-Qaeda’s most important ideological leader, and perhaps also the main operational leader of the network’s activities. Many counter-terrorism officials believe Zawahiri was more instrumental in the tactical planning of the September 11 attacks than bin Laden himself.

Where is Zawahiri?
He is believed to be hiding in the same region as bin Laden—somewhere in the lawless borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The FBI has named him its second most wanted terrorist, behind only bin Laden, and is offering up to $25 million for information leading to his capture.

Where did Zawahiri's militant ideology originate?
Zawahiri grew up in the Egyptian town of Maadi. Maadi's residents were notably moderate in their religious practices, but Zawahiri was the product of an unusually strict, and unusually illustrious, Muslim home. His father's uncle, Rabi'a al-Zawahiri, was the grand imam of Cairo's al-Azhar University, a position which has been described as being of "papal" importance within the Muslim world. His mother's family was also prominent. Her father, Ayman's grandfather, served as the president of Cairo University and founded King Saud University, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Despite their social prestige, the Zawahiri family refused to participate in Maadi social-life, which they perceived as religiously immoral. Some experts have posited that this dynamic, when combined with his cloistered academic upbringing, caused Ayman always to understand himself as an outsider.
In terms of the origins of Zawahiri's militant ideas, much can be learned from his admiration of Sayyid Qutb, a radical Islamist literary critic whom Zawahiri has quoted glowingly in his own writings. Qutb, an Egyptian who lived in the United States in the early 1950s, believed the country impure and spiritually unstable. He felt the only escape from the West's heavy influence was Islamic fundamentalism, holy war, and martyrdom. A true Muslim, according to Qutb, should fight to topple not only western countries and westerners, but also western sympathizers in Egypt and other Muslim nations. Qutb was arrested and imprisoned in 1954 for plotting to kill Nasser, then arrested again and executed, in 1966, for his involvement in a Muslim Brotherhood plot to overthrow the Egyptian government.
Qutb's writings guided Zawahiri's Salafist interpretation of Islam. Salafism stresses a dogmatic reading of the Quran which does not recognize any Islamic tradition which has arisen since the time of the Prophet. Zawahiri, in his writings, has called for militant opposition not only to Christians and Jews, but also to Muslims who break with Salafist practice and are thus "infidels.

Wanted in the USA and Egypt
For their leading role in anti-Egyptian Government attacks in the 1990s, Ayman al-Zawahiri and his brother Muhammad al-Zawahiri were sentenced to death in the 1999 Egyptian case of the Returnees from Albania.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is under indictment in the United States for this role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The Rewards for Justice Program of the U.S. Department of State is offering a reward of up to US$25 million for information about his location

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