Home / News / World /  Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri? An eye surgeon who became Osama bin Laden’s successor

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda and a key architect of the 9/11 terrorist operation, was assassinated by a US drone strike in Afghanistan on Saturday. On Monday, US Vice President Joe Biden reaffirmed it, declaring that "Justice has been served".

Following the US Forces' pursuit of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's Jalalabad, Zawahiri, who had recently turned 71, became command of Al-Qaeda. 11 years after Osama bin Laden was killed, Zawahiri has emerged as the organization's global symbol and a terrorist with a USD 25 million bounty on his head.

Also Read: US kills Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike

Zawahiri grew up to become a doctor despite being born into a middle-class family of intellectuals and physicians in Egypt. He was Rabia al-grandson, Zawahiri's the grand imam of Al Azhar, the epicentre of Sunni Islamic study in the Middle East and one of the most significant mosques in Islam.

After meeting Laden in 1986, Zawahiri joined him as his personal physician and adviser, going from being an eye surgeon to one of the most wanted terrorists in the world in just three years.

Also Read: Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's family donated 9.64 cr to Prince Charles in 2013

He assumed control of Islamic Jihad in Egypt in 1993 and rose to prominence in the mid-1990s movement to topple the government and establish a strict Islamic state. He was discovered to have participated in the murder of more than 1,200 Egyptians.

Later on, Zawahiri rose to the second spot on the US government's 2001 list of "most wanted terrorists." Zawahiri finally combined Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1998.

Zawahiri was charged for his alleged involvement in the August 7, 1998 bombings, which left 224 people dead, including 12 Americans, and over 4,500 injured in front of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in Africa.

Also Read: Al-Qaeda suicide attack threat in Delhi, Mumbai, UP over Prophet remarks

The culmination of Zawahiri's terror plotting came on September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A fourth hijacked airliner, headed for Washington, crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back.

Both he and bin Laden escaped US forces in Afghanistan in late 2001.

In May 2003, Zawahiri was found involved in suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed 23 people, including nine Americans, days after a tape thought to contain Zawahiri's voice was released.

Zawahiri emerged as a prominent speaker of Al-Qaeda, in recent years after he appeared in 16 videos and audiotapes in 2007, four times as many as Bin Laden, as the group tried to radicalise and recruit Muslims around the world.

His whereabouts were a mystery for several years, but he was believed to be hiding along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In January 2006, the US had earlier tried to kill Zawahiri in a missile strike near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The attack killed four al-Qaeda members, but Zawahiri survived and appeared on video two weeks later, warning US President George W Bush that neither he nor "all the powers on earth" could bring his death "one second closer".

Zawahiri's targeted killing comes a year after the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban's takeover of the country.

The US President said that justice had been delivered, adding, "No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the US will find you and take you out."

(With ANI inputs)

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