Zawahri, Ayman Muhammad, Al- (1952–)
ZAWAHRI, AYMAN MUHAMMAD, AL- (1952–)
Egyptian Islamist, descended from an illustrious Cairo family. His grandfather was the imam of the al-Azhar Mosque and his great-uncle was secretary-general of the Arab League. When still very young, Ayman al-Zawahri joined the Muslim Brotherhood. After earning a degree in surgery, he left the Muslim Brotherhood and joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In October 1981, following the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat, he was arrested and imprisoned for three years. While in prison he established himself as one of the principal leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, representing its most radical current. Freed in October 1984, he practiced surgery for a time. In May 1985 he left Egypt, first going to Saudi Arabia and then to Pakistan to support the Afghan resistance against the Soviet army. At the end of 1986, with Osama bin Ladin, he created al-Qaʿida, the International Islamic Front, where he was responsible for recruitment and logistical support of the Afghan resistance.
By 1992 he appears to have quit the Egyptian Jihad in order to found his own movement, Talaʿi al-Fatah (Vanguard of the Conquest), a name already used by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In November 1995 he claimed responsibility for the attack on the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, which caused seventeen deaths. On 12 February, at Peshawar, he and Osama bin Ladin created the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. On April 18 1999, with eight members of Egyptian Jihad, he was condemned to death in absentia by the Egyptian High Court of Military Justice. On September 25 2001 a "priority international arrest warrant" was issued against him, charging him and bin Ladin with masterminding the attacks of 11 September 2001 against the United States, which caused several thousand deaths. Zawahri is also under indictment in the United States for bombing the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. After the 11 September attacks, he issued a public statement, on tape, in which he condemned Israeli crimes against the Palestinians and American complicity in them. Zawahri's whereabouts are unknown, although he is thought to have fled with bin Ladin into the Afghan mountains after the September 11 attacks.