Ayman Muh&#803ammad Rabi‘ al-Z&#803awahiri [Ayman al-Z&#803awahiri]

Role box
- Prominent al-Qācidah member, deputy to Usāmah Bin Lādin.
- Former head of the Egyptian Jihād Group
Education, Career and Personal Background
Ayman Muhammad Rabīc al-Zawāhirī was born in Egypt on June 19, 1951. His father was a professor of pharmacology, and his maternal grandfather was president of Cairo University and Egyptian ambassador to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Ayman al-Zawāhirī grew up in an upper-class neighborhood in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. From Cairo University he earned a medical degree in 1974. Upon graduation, he worked as a surgeon with the Egyptian army for three years. In 1977, he married cIzzat Ahmad Nuwayr.1

Most of Ayman al-Zawāhirī's career is affiliated with his political and religious involvement described below.

Ayman al-Zawāhirī appears under a range of aliases, including the following:

- Abū Muhammad
- Abū Fātimah
- Muhammad Ibrāhīm
- Abū cAbd Allāh
- Abū al-Mucizz
- The Doctor
- The Teacher
- Nūr
- Ustāz
- Abū Muhammad Nūr al-Dīn
- cAbd al-Mucizz

- Al-Qācidah (affiliated since its establishment in the 1990's)
- Egyptian Jihād Group (leader supposedly until 2001)
Political/Religious Involvement
Ayman Muhammad Rabīc al-Zawāhirī is a Muslim who claims that he is committed to bringing the caliphate back, and advocates a violent means of jihād. He is considered a terrorist by many nations, including his native country, Egypt [RNSAW 2001, 49, art. 18]. He operates underground. Thus, the following chronological description of his activities is influenced by some uncertainty.

From Muslim Brotherhood to Egyptian Jihād Group to al-Qācidah
1960's and 1970's: Establishing the Egyptian Jihād Group.
Ayman al-Zawāhirī was fourteen years old when he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He became a student and follower of intellectual author Sayyid Qutb, who is known for his radical interpretation of the Qur'ān that has widely inspired militant Islamists.2
Al-Zawāhirī formed a cell within the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was the leader. According to al-Qāhirah [Cairo], a newspaper published by the Ministry of Culture, al-Zawāhirī said that the aim of his group was to topple the Egyptian regime through the use of force, and install an Islamic government in its place [AWR 2006, 40, art. 27]. In the late 1970's, this cell merged with other Islamic groups to establish the more extreme Egyptian Jihād Group.
From 1980 till 1981, al-Zawāhirī served as a medical doctor in Pakistan, supporting the Afghans during the Soviet occupation of their country. He treated mainly Afghan refugees who fled into Pakistan.

1981-1984: Tortured in prison in the aftermath of the presidential assassination. In 1981, he was one of hundreds arrested following the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sādāt. Sources differ in their explanation of al-Zawāhirī's role in planning the assassination, which was carried out by a member of the Jihād Group. One source3 briefly states he had no involvement, while another source4 says he was believed to have had major information on the plot. In the Arabic media it has been stated that he participated in the assassination, but was not considered one of the principal leaders at that time [RNSAW 2001, 41, art. 15]. Investigative papers published by the Egyptian media on the 25th anniversary of the assassination reveal that al-Zawāhirī himself explained that he was told about the plot in the morning on October 6, 1981, the day of the assassination [AWR 2006, 40, art. 27]. He was accused number 113, and the court charged him with possession of illegal weapons. He spent three years in jail, and according to several sources5, including his lawyer, Muntasir al-Zayyāt, al-Zawāhirī was tortured in prison.

1985-1996: Meeting Usāmah Bin Lādin
Al-Zawāhirī was released in 1984 and left Egypt in 1985, this time to Saudi Arabia from where he moved on to Peshawar, Pakistan. There he met Usāmah Bin Lādin, with whom he became a friend and personal doctor. In 1986 he again engaged in supporting the Arab Afghans. He went to Afghanistan to help resist the Soviet forces and reportedly establish a base of operations for his militant group.6

Following the Soviet-Afghan War, he traveled to Sudan in 1992 to join Bin Lādin. Egyptian sources say that while being in Sudan, al-Zawāhirī formed a "legal court" to try the son of one of the members of the organization as al-Zawāhirī had accused him of working for the Egyptian intelligence service. The court sentenced him to death. [RNSAW 2002, 1, art. 17]

During the 1990's, he continued to push the Egyptian Jihād Group toward more radical directions, and was supposedly influenced by Bin Lādin in changing the mission of the organization. Originally the aim was to create an Islamic state in Egypt, but al-Zawāhirī changed focus into a broader international perspective.7

Egyptian historian Dr.8 Rifcat al-Sacīd (who is also leader of the left wing Tajamuc Party) believes that al-Zawāhirī and his colleagues have made their jihād field international because most of their operations failed due to the efforts of Egyptian authorities. However, al-Zawāhirī justifies internationalizing the battle of Islam from a different perspective. He says that since there is an international coalition against the mujāhidīn, here he means fighters of jihād, the battle against such a coalition should be international. [AWR 2003, 23, art. 11]

Several incidents in Sudan in 1995 indicate that Egyptian and Saudi intelligence attempted to kill al-Zawāhirī as well as Bin Lādin following the aftermath of a failed attempt by the Egyptian Jihād Group and al-Jamācah al-Islāmīyah to assassinate Egyptian president Husnī Mubārak.9

1996-1998: Detained in Russia and released unidentified.

In 1996, he was detained in Russia for six months. He was arrested upon illegally entering the Russian Federation in the southern province of Dagestan, apparently in order to operate in Chechnya. According to the French magazine, Jeune Afrique, he was presented to the court as a Sudanese businessman [RNSAW 2002, 38, art. 17]. A spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said that he was carrying four passports under different names and nationalities. His identity was not confirmed, and he was released at the Azerbaijani border. He subsequently traveled the world seeking refuge and is believed to have made his way throughout Europe.10

In 1997, 58 foreign tourists were massacred in Luxor, an Egyptian city popular for its ancient temples and Pharaonic tombs. Ayman al-Zawāhirī was found guilty of being behind the massacre, and in 1999 he was sentenced to death in absentia. He is also considered responsible for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

1998-2001: World Islamic Front against Jews and the Crusaders. On February 23, 1998, he issued a joint fatwá with Usāmah Bin Lādin entitled, 'World Islamic Front against Jews and Crusaders.' According to an English translation they declared11:

"The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Mecca) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, 'and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,' and 'fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah'."

The international Islamic Front for Holy War against Jews and the Crusaders12 was later referred to in Arabic media as an organization13. There is uncertainty about the network of organizations and relations between different cells and figures [For an example see RNSAW 2001, 8, art. 7] and sources provide contradictive information. Wikipedia14 states that 1998 is the year when Ayman al-Zawāhirī formally merged the Egyptian Jihād Group into al-Qācidah (The Base). However, Global Security15 and the Federation of American Scientists16 states that this did not happen until 200117. Global Security describes how the Jihād Group was weakened considerably in 1998, because members resisted the international oriented fatwá made by their leader Usāmah Bin Lādin18. Ayman al-Zawāhirī reportedly left the Jihād Group for several months in 1999, but returned as there was nobody to assume his position. In 2001, the Egyptian Jihād Group ceased to be an independent organization and became a part of al-Qācidah.19

2001: 9/11 attacks.
Several sources mention al-Zawāhirī to be among the al-Qācidah organizers of the 2001 September 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and Washington's Pentagon. That same year, on October 10, he appeared on the FBI's top 22 most wanted terrorists list.

On December 3, 2001, an American air strike on a cave complex near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, targeted him. While he survived, there is doubt about his wife and three children. According to concurrent media reports they were killed [For example see RNSAW 2001, 50, art.27], but the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) rejected the information in 2002, saying they were transferred to another place before the American attack [RNSAW 2002, 6, art. 21]. However, the Arabic media has also mentioned the family to be dead [RNSAW 2002, 37, art. 21].

2001: Publishing 'Knights under the Flag of the Prophet'
December 2001 was also the time when Ayman al-Zawāhirī published a book entitled, 'Fursān Taht Rāyat al-Nabī,' [Knights under the Flag of the Prophet] in which he recounted how he came to join the Jihād Group at the age of 16. Furthermore, he gave details of terrorist operations committed and planned by the Jihād Group in Egypt. [RNSAW 2001, 49, art. 18]

Among the operations mentioned were failed attempts to assassinate Egyptian President Husnī Mubārak, a minister of information, a former minister of interior, and a former prime minister. The result of the latter attempt was the death of an innocent child. Al-Zawāhirī blamed the media for exploiting her death and viewing the attempt as an attack against a child, not against the prime minister. Al-Zawāhirī has stated that there is legal evidence to justify the unintentional killing of Muslims during operations targeted at foreigners, officials or security officers. According to al-Zawāhirī this should be resolved by apologizing to the relatives of the innocent victims and providing them with financial compensation. [AWR 2004, 24, art. 26]

In addition to the failed terrorist operations listed above, in 'Knights under the Flag of the Prophet,' al-Zawāhirī also described how the Egyptian Jihād Group succeeded in assassinating the speaker of the People's Assembly and a senior general in the State Security Investigation Department. The assassination of President Sādāt was also mentioned. Al-Zawāhirī wrote that the organization was planning to carry out a terrorist attack against the presidents of the different countries attending Sādāt's funeral. However, there were not enough facilities to accomplish this. [RNSAW 2001, 49, art. 18]

'Knights under the Flag of the Prophet' also dealt with Egypt's largest and oldest Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, to which he was affiliated in his youth. Al-Zawāhirī criticizes the Muslim Brotherhood for avoiding jihād and fighting what he terms "the crusader aggression." He says that the Muslim Brotherhood is growing in terms of their organizational system but dying in terms of their ideology. [RNSAW 2001, 51, art. 21]

The Azhar banned the circulation of the book in April, 2002. The Islamic Research Institute, affiliated with the Azhar, officially stated:

"It includes a motivation to break the Law of God. It stirs up the people against their rulers and presents false interpretations of some texts to arouse strife and disorder among Muslims, which goes against the aim of the Holy Qur'ān as a book for al-Hidāyah (showing people the way to God). The Holy Qur'ān calls for moderation and rejects violence, extremism and terrorism. Islam is based on good preaching and argument with what is the best." [RNSAW 2002, 17, art. 17]

2002-2006: 9/11 aftermath - al-Qācidah spokesman on frequent video broadcasts

In September 2002, Arabic media reported that al-Zawāhirī married two widows of a killed al-Qācidah member. He was said to do so to celebrate the memory of the September 11 attacks of the previous year. [RNSAW 2002, 37, art. 21]

Since 2003, Ayman al-Zawāhirī has appeared in a range of video messages broadcast on worldwide television.20 In May 2003, for example, he called for violence [AWR 2003, 21, art.10]. He threatened the U.S. and the coalition forces involved in the Iraqi War and urged civilian Iraqis to fight them:

"The only thing that will do you any good is to carry weapons and attack your enemies, Americans and Jews. The Crusaders and Jews only understand the language of killing and bloodshed. They can only be persuaded through returning coffins, devastated interests, burning towers, and collapsed economies. "Oh Muslims, make your decision against the embassies of America, England, Australia and Norway, their interests, their companies and their employees. Learn from your brothers, the 19 that killed themselves in New York and Washington. They achieved something that is unprecedented in history," he added. [AWR 2003, 21, art.10]

In February 2005, he was listed as the second most wanted terrorist by U.S.21 The United States Department of State is offering up to $25 million for information leading directly to his apprehension or conviction.

In the fall of 2005 the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence published a letter from al-Zawāhirī to Abū Muscab al-Zarqāwī, obtained by the Americans during operations in Iraq. In the lengthy letter, dated July 9, 2005, al-Zawāhirī instructs al-Zarqāwī on how to handle the Iraqi situation and in the longer run implement the caliphate.21

On January 13, 2006, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) targeted him in an air strike on Damadola, a Pakistani village near the Afghan border. 18 people were killed, but Ayman al-Zawāhirī himself appeared alive on a video broadcast on January 30. He branded Bush the 'butcher of Washington,' called him a 'failed crusader' and a 'loser' and directed part of his speech to the American citizens, blaming Bush for shedding their blood and wasting their money in what he terms 'frustrated adventures.'22

Number one or two in al-Qācidah?
Ayman al-Zawāhirī appears to have had a central role in building up al-Qācidah.23 He is frequently referred to as the second man in control of the militant Islamic organization. However there are also sources24 mentioning him as the brain behind Usāmah Bin Lādin and the mastermind of the al-Qācidah network. The London based Arabic newspaper al-Hayāt published an article based on a report on the work of the CIA. They stressed that Ayman al-Zawāhirī is considered the most powerful person on the ideological, political and military sides of al-Qācidah. [RNSAW 2001, 42, art. 17]

Egyptian historian Dr. Rifcat al-Sacīd has studied the ideologies of Ayman al-Zawāhirī, Usāmah Bin Lādin and the Tālibān regime in Afghanistan. He believes that the ideologies of Bin Lādin are superficial in comparison to those of al-Zawāhirī, whom he believes is the mind of al-Qācidah. [AWR 2003, 23, art. 11]

Widely opposed
A review of articles concerning Ayman al-Zawāhirī in Arab-West Report show that he is widely opposed by scholars as well as politicians and religious figures in his native country, Egypt.

Among his criticizers are Islamist organizations such as the Egyptian al-Jamācah al-Islāmiyyah, an Egyptian Islamic organization rivaling the Jihād Group, which has had an anti-violent strategy since 1997. They stress that his al-Qācidah operations are unlawful according to Sharīcah, and call upon Muslims not to participate. Al-Zayyāt, lawyer of the al-Jamācah al-Islāmiyyah, wrote a biography of al-Zawāhirī in the aftermath of 'Knights under the Flag of the Prophet.' In 'Ayman al-Zawāhirī kamā cariftahu' [Ayman al-Zawāhirī as I Knew Him] he arrived at the conclusion that "Ayman al-Zawāhirī caused the Islamic movement in Egypt, the greatest problem in its history." He added that al-Zawāhirī forced all Islamists into an unjustified confrontation with America. [RNSAW 2002, 1, art. 17]

Dr. Rifcat al-Sacīd also said that the ideology of al-Zawāhirī has nothing to do with Islam, and that he is giving a wrong image of Islam when speaking in the name of the religion. [AWR 2003, 21, art. 16]

Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations (if any)

Ayman al-Zawāhirī is to a wide extent involved in relations between the Arab world and the Western world. This involvement is closely related to his political and religiously motivated activities in militant Islamic organizations, which are described chronologically above in the part of the biography that deals with "Political/Religious Involvement." The tendency is that his engagement in international affairs has grown after becoming a partner of Usāmah Bin Lādin during the 1990's, while Ayman al-Zawāhirī originally had a national mission to turn Egypt into an Islamic state.

Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations
Ayman al-Zawāhirī is to a wide extent involved in relations between the Arab world and the Western world. This involvement is closely related to his political and religiously motivated activities in militant Islamic organizations, which are described chronologically above in the part of the biography that deals with "Political/Religious Involvement." The tendency is that his engagement in international affairs has grown after becoming a partner of Usāmah Bin Lādin during the 1990's, while Ayman al-Zawāhirī originally had a national mission to turn Egypt into an Islamic state.
Mia Ulvgraven, December 2006
Additional Information on other issues
1) http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Zawahiri.html#1, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayyid_Qutb
3) http://www.answers.com/topic/ayman-al-zawahiri
4) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
5) e.g. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm, http://www.answers.com/topic/ayman-al-zawahiri, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_al-Zawahiri
6) http://www.answers.com/topic/ayman-al-zawahiri
7) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
8) PhD in the philosophy of modern history and in the science of modern history
9) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
10) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
11) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda#_note-8
12) It has also been termed the International Islamic Front or World Islamic Front.
13) E.g. RNSAW 1998, 10, art. 3; RNSAW 1998, 35, art.1; RNSAW 2000, 34, art. 3
14) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_al-Zawahiri
15) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
16) http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/ladin.htm
17) Wikipedia in its description of l-Qācidah says the officially merging occured in 1999, but this information is given with the note 'citation needed,' Global Security especially writes extensively on the issue, and thus seems to be more credible.
18) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm
19) A list of video messages is provided on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_al-Zawahiri
20) http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/teralzawahiri.htm
21) For CNN transcript of the speech refer to: http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/01/30/zawahiri.transcript/
22) For English translation of the full letter refer to http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/203gpuul.asp?pg=2
23) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/zawahiri.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_al-Zawahiri
24) http://english.aljazeera.net/news/archive/archive?ArchiveId=2567, RNSAW 2001, 42, art. 17, AWR 2003, 25, art. 13
Biographical references:

Further Reading:
RNSAW 2001, 49, art. 19 contains an excerpt of al-Zawāhirī's book "Knights under the flag of the Prophet".

Contact Information
Not available
Sources to a wide extent provide contradictory information on Ayman al-Zawāhirī. Much information appears to be factual, but different sources differ on the same issue. This problem concerns issues such as year of marriage (1977 or 1978) and the year he merged the Egyptian Jihād Group with al-Qācidah (1998 or 2001). Information is judged by cross chekings between sources, and usually credibility is given to sources that write extensively about an issue. For example Global Security describes the merging of the Jihād Group with l-Qācidah in details and thus is used as reference on that issue. On the other hand they are not given credibility on stating that he was married in 1978, because an other source which provides detailed information on his family background and personal life dates the marriage to 1977.

Because of the contradictions this biography is provided with more in-text references than most of our biographies in order to let readers judge the credibility of each information for themselves.

It is not known when Ayman al-Zawāhirī became a leader of the Egyptian Jihād Group.

Hidden files
Nationality: Egyptian
Index: Should have his own category related somehow to militant islamism (terrorism)
Mia Ulvgraven, December 2006