Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al Qaeda leader killed by a U.S. drone in Kabul?
Ayman al-Zawahiri became Al-Qaeda’s leader after Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in 2011. He had been Bin Laden’s personal doctor and had helped plan the 9/11 attack in 2001.
U.S. President Joe Biden has confirmed that Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 30, 2022. The U.S. had been searching for even before the 9/11 attacks that he masterminded with bin Laden
al-Zawahiri’s early activism started in Cairo
Ayman al-Zawahiri was originally from a distinguished Egyptian family and had studied medicine at Cairo University. In 1985 he had gone to Saudi Arabia to practice medicine and that is where he met bin Laden in Jeddah in 1986.
His militant activity had begun in the 1970s and in 1981 he was arrested, along with hundreds of others, for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He spent three years in prison for his role in the coup and after his release, he went to Pakistan to help treat wounded Afghan soldiers who were fighting against the Soviets.
Terrorist merger between Egyptians and Saudis
In 1998 his terror group Egyptian Islamic Jihad merged with al Qaeda and his ally bin Laden, “We are working with brother bin Laden. We know him since more than 10 years now. We fought with him here in Afghanistan,” he said.
The newly merged terrorist group began attacking U.S. facilities shortly after with the suicide bombings of embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed over 200 people and wounded 5,000 more. In 2000 they were responsible for killing 17 American sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen where 39 other sailors were injured.
Mastermind behind the 9/11 attack
He was one of the masterminds behind the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which resulted in the deaths of 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. After the attack he was recorded on videotape talking about the operation with bin Laden, “This great victory was possible only by the grace of God. This was not just a human achievement—it was a holy act. These nineteen brave men who gave their lives for the cause of God will be well taken care of. God granted them the strength to do what they did. There’s no comparison between the power of these nineteen men and the power of America, and there’s no comparison between the destruction these nineteen men caused and the destruction America caused.”
After 9/11 al-Zawahiri went into hiding, but appeared in numerous video and audiotapes to urge Muslims to join the jihad against the United States and its allies. Some of his tapes were followed closely by terrorist attacks.
The search continued despite the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan
The U.S. State Department had offered a reward of $25 million to anyone with information leading to his capture. He was thought to be somewhere near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Biden explained that despite the withdrawal, intelligence continued with counterterrorism operations: “When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan, to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm. And I made a promise to the American people that we would continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that,” Biden said.
Biden confirmed from the White House that al-Zawahiri had been killed by a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 30, 2021. “Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more- he’s gone and we’re going to make sure that nothing else will happen,” Biden said. “We will continue to address threats from al Qaeda.”