Ayman al-Zawahiri

Physician / Terrorist
Date Of Birth:
19 June 1951
Place Of Birth:
Maadi, Egypt
Best Known As:
Osama bin Laden's one-time partner in al-Qaeda

Ayman al-Zawahiri is the former head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the former partner of Osama bin Laden in al-Qaeda, a violent militant group that targets Americans, Jews and other "enemies of Islam." Al-Zawahiri grew up in the suburbs of Cairo and studied medicine at Cairo University, while secretly involved with radical groups whose hope was to overthrow the Egyptian government and establish an Islamist theocracy. By 1979 he had earned a medical degree with a specialty in surgery, and had become a leader in the clandestine group of militants that formed Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In 1981 Zawahiri was arrested -- along with hundreds of others -- in the wake of Anwar Sadat's assassination. Although it was determined he had no involvement in Sadat's killing, Zawahiri spent three years in jail on an illegal weapons charge. In 1986 he went to Afghanistan to help Afghan Arabs resist Soviet forces and to establish a base of operations for his militant group. By the time he returned to Egypt in 1990, he had become friend and physician to bin Laden.

By the late 1990s bin Laden and Zawhiri had merged groups and expanded their operations to target Israel and its allies, especially the United States, for attacks on civilians. Zawahiri is said to have been behind a 1997 attack in Luxor, Egypt that killed more than 60 tourists, is considered responsible for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and is thought to have helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed organize the 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He is wanted by the United States government, with a reward offer of up to $25 million for his apprehension. Experts differ on whether Zawahiri or bin Laden was really the boss of al-Qaeda; Zawahiri appeared second to bin Laden on the F.B.I.'s Most Wanted Terrorists list, but prior to bin Laden's death in 2011 official al-Qaeda communications featured Zawahiri more than bin Laden.

Extra Credit

He has a twin sister, Umnya… Zawahiri has many aliases, including Abu Muhammad, Abu Fatima, Muhammad Ibrahim, The Doctor, Abu Mohammed and Abdel Muaz.

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