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Al-Zawahri Killed in US Drone Strike in Afghanistan – The Diplomat

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The doorways of jihad opened for Ayman al-Zawahri as a younger physician in a Cairo clinic when a customer arrived with a tempting provide: an opportunity to deal with Islamic fighters battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

With that provide in 1980, al-Zawahri launched into a life that over three a long time took him to the highest of probably the most feared terrorist group on the planet, al-Qaida, after the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Already an skilled militant who had sought the overthrow of Egypt’s “infidel” regime for the reason that age of 15, al-Zawahri took a visit to the Afghan struggle zone that was only a few weeks lengthy, however it opened his eyes to new potentialities.

What he noticed was “the coaching course making ready Muslim mujahedeen youth to launch their upcoming battle with the nice energy that might rule the world: America,” he wrote in a 2001 biography-cum-manifesto.

Al-Zawahri, 71, was killed over the weekend by a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan. President Joe Biden introduced the demise Monday night in an tackle to the nation.

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The strike is more likely to result in higher disarray inside the group than did bin Laden’s demise in 2011 since it’s far much less clear who his successor can be.

Al-Zawahri turned essential to turning the jihadi motion’s weapons to focus on america because the right-hand man to bin Laden, the younger Saudi millionaire he met within the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. Underneath their management, the al-Qaida terror community carried out the deadliest assault ever on American soil, the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackings.

The assaults on the World Commerce Middle and Pentagon made bin Laden America’s Enemy No. 1. However he seemingly might by no means have carried it out with out his deputy.

Whereas bin Laden got here from a privileged background in a outstanding Saudi household, al-Zawahri had the expertise of an underground revolutionary. Bin Laden offered al-Qaida with charisma and cash, however al-Zawahri introduced the ways and organizational abilities wanted to forge militants right into a community of cells in nations around the globe.

“Bin Laden at all times regarded as much as him,” stated terrorism professional Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown College. Al-Zawahri “frolicked in an Egyptian jail, he was tortured. He was a jihadi from the time he was a youngster.”

When the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan demolished al-Qaida’s protected haven and scattered, killed and captured its members, al-Zawahri ensured al-Qaida’s survival. He rebuilt its management within the Afghan-Pakistan border area and put in allies as lieutenants in key positions.

He additionally turned the motion’s public face, placing out a continuing stream of video messages whereas bin Laden largely hid.

Together with his thick beard, heavy-rimmed glasses, and the outstanding bruise on his brow from prostration in prayer, he was notoriously prickly and pedantic. He picked ideological fights with critics inside the jihadi camp, wagging his finger scoldingly in his movies. Even some key figures in al-Qaida’s central management have been postpone, calling him overly controlling, secretive, and divisive — a distinction to bin Laden, whose soft-spoken presence many militants described in adoring, nearly non secular phrases.

But he reshaped the group from a centralized planner of terror assaults into the pinnacle of a franchise chain. He led the creation of a community of autonomous branches across the area, together with in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Africa, Somalia, and Asia.

Within the decade after 9/11, al-Qaida impressed or had a direct hand in assaults in all these areas in addition to Europe, Pakistan, and Turkey, together with the 2004 prepare bombings in Madrid and the 2005 transit bombings in London. Extra lately, the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen has confirmed itself able to plotting assaults on U.S. soil with an tried 2009 bombing of an American passenger jet and an tried package deal bomb the next yr.

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Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid on his compound in Could 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Lower than two months later, al-Qaida proclaimed al-Zawahri its paramount chief.

The jihad in opposition to America “doesn’t halt with the demise of a commander or chief,” he stated three months after bin Laden’s demise. “Chase America, which killed the chief of the mujahedeen and threw his physique into the ocean.”

The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings across the Mideast threatened a significant blow to al-Qaida, displaying that jihad was not the one strategy to do away with Arab autocrats. It was primarily pro-democracy liberals and leftists who led the rebellion that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, the longtime purpose al-Zawahri failed to realize.

However al-Zawahri sought to co-opt the wave of uprisings, insisting that they’d have been unimaginable if the 9/11 assaults had not weakened America. And he urged Islamic hard-liners to take over within the nations the place leaders had fallen.

Al-Zawahri was born June 19, 1951, the son of an upper-middle-class household of medical doctors and students within the Cairo suburb of Maadi. His father was a pharmacology professor at Cairo College’s medical college and his grandfather, Rabia al-Zawahri, was the grand imam of Al-Azhar College, a premier heart of bible study.

From an early age, al-Zawahri was enflamed by the unconventional writings of Sayed Qutb, the Egyptian Islamist who taught that Arab regimes have been “infidel” and must be changed by Islamic rule.

Within the Nineteen Seventies, as he earned his medical diploma as a surgeon, he was lively in militant circles. He merged his personal militant cell with others to type the group Islamic Jihad and commenced attempting to infiltrate the navy, at one level even storing weapons in his personal clinic.

Then got here the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by Islamic Jihad militants. The slaying was carried out by a special cell within the group — and al-Zawahri has written that he discovered of the plot solely hours earlier than the assassination. However he was arrested together with tons of of different militants and served three years in jail.

Throughout his imprisonment, he was reportedly tortured closely, an element some cite as turning him extra violently radical.

After his launch in 1984, al-Zawahri returned to Afghanistan and joined the Arab militants from throughout the Center East preventing alongside the Afghans in opposition to the Soviets. He courted bin Laden, who turned a heroic determine for his monetary help of the mujahedeen.

Al-Zawahri adopted bin Laden to his new base in Sudan, and from there he led a reassembled the Islamic Jihad group in a violent marketing campaign of bombings aimed toward toppling Egypt’s U.S.-allied authorities.

In probably the most daring assault, Jihad and different militants tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak throughout a 1995 go to to Ethiopia. Mubarak escaped the hail of gunfire aimed toward his motorcade, and his safety forces all however crushed the militant motion in Egypt within the crackdown that adopted.

The Egyptian motion failed. However al-Zawahri would carry to al-Qaida the ways that he honed in Islamic Jihad.

He promoted using suicide bombings, to develop into al-Qaida’s hallmark. He plotted a 1995 suicide automotive bombing of Egypt’s embassy in Islamabad that killed 16 individuals — presaging the extra devastating 1998 al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed greater than 200, assaults al-Zawahri was indicted for in america.

In 1996, Sudan expelled bin Laden, who took his fighters again to Afghanistan, the place they discovered a protected haven underneath the unconventional Taliban regime. As soon as extra, al-Zawahri adopted.

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Two years later, their bond was sealed when bin Laden, al-Zawahri and different militant leaders issued the “Declaration of Jihad in opposition to Jews and Crusaders.” It introduced that america was Islam’s prime enemy and instructed Muslims that it was their non secular responsibility to “kill the Individuals and their allies.”

It consecrated a dramatic shift that al-Zawahri underwent underneath bin Laden’s affect, altering from his longtime technique of attacking the “close to enemy” — U.S.-allied Arab regimes like Egypt — to focus on the “far enemy,” america itself.

Some in al-Zawahri’s Islamic Jihad broke away, against the transfer. And a few al-Qaida militants whose affiliation with bin Laden predated al-Zawahri’s at all times noticed him as an boastful intruder.

“I’ve by no means taken orders from al-Zawahri,” Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of many community’s prime figures in East Africa till his 2011 demise, sneered in a memoir posted on-line in 2009. “We don’t take orders from anybody however our historic management.”

Quickly after the alliance got here the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa, adopted by the 2000 suicide bombing of the united statesCole off Yemen, an assault al-Zawahri is believed to have helped arrange.

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, al-Zawahri and bin Laden fled into Pakistan as a U.S. airstrike killed al-Zawahri’s spouse and a minimum of two of their six youngsters within the southern Afghan metropolis of Kandahar.

The CIA got here tantalizingly near probably capturing al-Zawahri in 2003 and killing him in 2004. The CIA thought it lastly had al-Zawahri in its sights in 2009, solely to be tricked by a double agent who blew himself up, killing seven company staff and wounding six extra in Khost, Afghanistan.

In his 2001 treatise, “Knights Underneath the Prophet’s Banner,” al-Zawahri set the long-term technique for the jihadi motion — to inflict “as many casualties as potential” on the Individuals, whereas attempting to ascertain management in a nation as a base “to launch the battle to revive the holy caliphate” of Islamic rule throughout the Muslim world.

Al-Qaida did make inroads in Europe. The bombers within the Madrid assaults that killed 191 have been stated to have been impressed by al-Qaida, though direct hyperlinks stay unsure. Al-Zawahri claimed al-Qaida duty for the 2005 London transit bombings that killed 52, saying some perpetrators educated in al-Qaida camps.

Not all terror campaigns have been profitable. Al-Qaida’s department in Saudi Arabia was crushed by 2006. Al-Zawahri himself needed to write to the pinnacle of al-Qaida’s department in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to rein in his brutal assaults on Iraqi Shiites, which have been hurting the community’s picture amongst Muslims.

That underlined al-Zawahri’s final failure. Together with his focus on a “Muslim vanguard” finishing up dramatic assaults, he by no means gained widespread well-liked help for al-Qaida within the Islamic world past a fringe of radical sympathizers.

His reply, in “Knights Underneath the Prophet’s Banner,” was for jihadis to proceed hitting Individuals, hoping to use anti-U.S. sentiment and draw within the public. He echoed that technique in a June 2011 video eulogy to his slain boss.

Bin Laden “terrified America in his life,” he stated, and “will proceed to terrify it after his demise.”

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