The 9/11 attacks made Osama bin Laden America’s No. 1 Enemy. But without Ayman al-Zawari, he probably would never have been able to carry it out.
CAIRO, Egypt — A US drone strike in Afghanistan this weekend killed Ayman al-Zawari, who helped Osama bin Laden plan the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and ensured al-Qaeda survived and spread in the years that followed. President Joe Biden on Monday announced the assassination of al-Zawari, scoring a significant counter-terrorism victory just 11 months after American troops left the country.
A look at the al Qaeda leader who eluded US capture for 21 years after the suicide bombings that changed America and its relationship with the rest of the world in many ways.
WHO WAS AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI?
Americans who witnessed the September 11 attacks may not remember al-Zawari’s name, but many recognize his face more than two decades later: a bespectacled man, smiling slightly, in photos invariably by bin’s side Loading to see how the two agreed the strike in the United States.
Al-Zawari, an Egyptian, was born on June 19, 1951 to a wealthy family in a leafy, sleepy suburb of Cairo. A religious practitioner from childhood, he dove into a violent branch of a Sunni Islamic revival that sought to replace the governments of Egypt and other Arab nations with a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule.
Al-Zawari worked as an eye surgeon as a young adult, but he also roamed Central Asia and the Middle East, witnessing the Afghans’ war against the Soviet occupiers in that country and meeting the young Saudi Osama bin Laden and other Arab militants who were rallying around Afghanistan to help expel Soviet troops.
He was one of hundreds of militants arrested and tortured in Egyptian prisons after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by Islamic fundamentalists in 1981. Biographers say the experience further radicalized him. Seven years later, al-Zawahiri was there when bin Laden founded al-Qaeda.
Al-Zawari merged with his own Egyptian militant group to form al-Qaeda. He brought to al-Qaeda the organizational skills and experience – honed underground in Egypt and eluded Egyptian intelligence – that enabled al-Qaeda to organize cells of supporters and strike around the world.
WHY WAS AL-ZAWAHRI IMPORTANT?
After years of quietly collecting the suicide bombers, funds and plans for 9/11, Zawari made sure al-Qaeda survived a worldwide manhunt for another attack.
Fleeing 9/11, al-Zawari rebuilt al-Qaeda leadership in the Afghan-Pakistani border region and was the supreme leader of branches in Iraq, Asia, Yemen and beyond. With a creed of attacking enemies near and far, post-9/11 al-Qaeda launched years of relentless attacks: in Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid, London and beyond. Attacks that killed 52 in London in 2005 were among al Qaeda’s last devastating strikes in the West, as drone strikes, anti-terrorist attacks and missiles fired by the US and others killed al Qaeda-affiliated militants and destroyed parts of the network .
HOW WAS HE KILLED?
Around sunrise on Sunday, al-Zawari came onto the balcony of a house in Kabul, Afghanistan, and apparently lingered there, as US intelligence found he often did. That day, a US drone fired two Hellfire missiles at the al-Qaeda leader as he stood and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the attack, according to US officials.
Analysts said his presence in Afghanistan had been widely suspected for some time. US officials learned this year that Zawari’s wife and other family members had recently moved to a safe house in Kabul. Zawari soon followed, the senior administration officials said.
US officials, along with senior leaders and eventually Biden, spent painstaking months confirming his identity — and his fateful practice of standing alone on the same balcony — and plotting the strike.
https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/who-is-ayman-al-zawahri/507-0bcf6b76-c452-4f33-8f01-feb7e3a2398f Who was Ayman al-Zawahri? al-Qaida leader, key 9/11 plotter