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Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Date of birth : 1951-06-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Maadi, Cairo, Egypt
Nationality : Egyptian
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2011-06-08

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.

As of May 2, 2011, he is assumed to be the sole figurehead of al-Qaeda due to the death of Osama bin Laden. He has a $25 million bounty on his head for information leading to his capture.

Al-Zawahiri is reportedly a qualified surgeon; when his organization merged with bin Laden's al-Qaeda, he became bin Laden's personal advisor and physician. He had first met bin Laden in Jeddah in 1986. Al- Zawahiri has shown a deep and radical understanding of Islamic theology and Islamic history. He speaks Arabic, English and French. Al-Zawahiri is under worldwide sanctions by the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee as a member or affiliate of al-Qaeda.

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