EXPLAINER: Who was al-Zawahri — and why did US kill him? | Nationwide Information

WASHINGTON (AP) — A US drone strike in Afghanistan this weekend killed Ayman al-Zawahri, who helped Osama bin Laden plot the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults on the USA and helped al-Qaida survive and unfold within the years after. By discovering and putting al-Zawahiri, President Joe Biden stated, the US was making certain that Afghanistan below the Taliban would by no means once more turn into a base for assaults on the remainder of the world, because it was in 2001.

A take a look at the al-Qaida chief, who evaded US seize for 21 years after the suicide airliner assaults that in some ways modified America and its relations with the remainder of the world.


Individuals who lived by the 9/11 assaults could not bear in mind al-Zawahri’s title, however many know his face, greater than twenty years on: a person in glasses, barely smiling, invariably proven in pictures by the facet of bin Laden as the 2 organized the strike on the USA.

An Egyptian, al-Zawahri was born June 19, 1951, to a snug household in a leafy, drowsy Cairo suburb. Religiously observant from boyhood, he immersed himself in a violent department of a Sunni Islamic revival that sought to switch the governments of Egypt and different Arab nations with a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule.

Al-Zawahri labored as a watch surgeon as a younger grownup, but additionally roamed Central Asia and the Center East, witnessing Afghans’ conflict towards Soviet occupiers in that nation, and assembly younger Saudi Osama bin Laden and different Arab militants rallying to assist Afghanistan expel Soviet troops.

He was one in all a whole lot of activists captured and tortured in Egyptian jail after Islamic fundamentalists’ assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Biographers say the expertise additional radicalized him. Seven years later, al-Zawahri was current when bin Laden based al-Qaida.

Al-Zawahri merged his personal Egyptian militant group with al-Qaida. He introduced al-Qaeda organizational ability and expertise — honed underground in Egypt, evading Egyptian intelligence — that allowed al-Qaeda to arrange cells of followers and strike world wide.


After the years of quietly assembling the suicide attackers, funds and plans for the Sept. 11 assault, Zawahri and lieutenants ensured that al-Qaida survived the worldwide manhunt that adopted to assault once more.

On the run after 9/11, al-Zawahri rebuilt al-Qaida management within the Afghan-Pakistan border area and was the supreme chief over branches in Iraq, Asia, Yemen and past. With a credo of concentrating on close to and much enemies, al-Qaida after 9/11 carried out years of unrelenting assaults: in Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid, London and past. Assaults that killed 52 folks in London in 2005 have been amongst al-Qaeda’s final devastating assaults within the West, as drone strikes, counterterror raids and missiles launched by the US and others killed al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters and shattered elements of the community.


Round dawn Sunday, Al-Zawahri walked out on the balcony of a home in Kabul, Afghanistan. He apparently lingered outdoors on the balcony, as US intelligence had famous he typically did. On today, a US drone fired two Hellfire missiles on the al-Qaida chief as he stood, in accordance with US officers, talking on situation of anonymity to debate the strike.

His presence in Afghanistan had been broadly suspected for a while, analysts stated. US officers discovered this 12 months that Zawahri’s spouse and different relations had moved to a secure home in Kabul not too long ago. Zawahri quickly adopted, the senior administration officers stated.

US officers, joined by prime leaders all the way in which as much as, finally, Biden, spent cautious months confirming his identification — and his fateful apply of standing alone on that very same balcony — and deliberate the strike.


It is determined by which al-Qaida lieutenant succeeds him. And after a long time of US and different strikes, that is a fairly skinny group. Al-Qaeda knowledgeable Ali Soufan factors to an Egyptian, Saif al-Adl, as one of many candidates to be dreaded by the West, given al-Adl’s revered standing inside al-Qaeda, his expertise, and the potential of his charisma to attract again al-Qaida defects who’ve moved to different teams.

However al-Qaida general now faces a succession disaster and a shaky future. That features rivalries towards aggressive upstart extremist teams that got here into being after 9/11 and still have a presence in Afghanistan.

Charles Lister, one other knowledgeable in violent extremist networks, wrote after the killing that the character and unfold of conflicts across the Center East, Africa and South Asia right now favor domestically centered jihadist organizations slightly than globally centered ones.

Al-Qaida’s subsequent chief should show his relevance to “self-confident associates which were extra keen to push again towards a central management perceived as indifferent from the realities of conflicts hundreds of miles away,” Lister wrote.


Undoubtedly, US officers stated. It wasn’t clear Monday how lengthy al-Zawahri had been in Afghanistan, however his presence there had been broadly rumored for a while, stated Asfandyar Mir, a Central Asia knowledgeable with the US Institute of Peace. Not solely that: The home the place Al-Zawahri was residing together with his household was owned by a prime aide to senior Taliban chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, in accordance with a senior US intelligence official.

It could possibly be that somebody among the many Taliban offered out al-Zawahri and his household to US or different overseas pursuits. Nevertheless it was a Taliban authorities that took in al-Qaida’s leaders within the mid-Nineteen Nineties and allowed them to plot the 9/11 assaults there, sparking the 20-year US-led conflict there. The concern after al-Zawahri’s demise in Afghanistan’s capital was that the Taliban have been permitting armed extremist organizations a house in Afghanistan once more within the wake of the US withdrawal, because the West had feared.