September 26, 2022

The alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been one of the US’s most wanted men for more than two decades.

Egyptian al-Zawahiri, a trained surgeon, was Osama bin Laden’s No. 2 and took over al-Qaeda after bin Laden was killed in a US raid in 2011.

He was instrumental in planning the 9/11 attacks. was indicted in absentia for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. and is believed to have masterminded the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.

Ayman al-Zawahiri delivers a eulogy for slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in this picture taken on June 8, 2011.
Ayman al-Zawahiri delivers a eulogy for slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in this picture taken on June 8, 2011.AFP via Getty Images

The FBI listed him as its most wanted terrorist in the world and offered a $25 million reward for information.

On Saturday al-Zawahiri, 71, was killed in a US airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, President Joe Biden announced on Monday.

“Now, justice has been served and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.

Al-Zawahiri was born into a politically connected family in Cairo and earned degrees in medicine and surgery before joining the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1979.

He came to international attention in 1981 when he was accused of plotting to assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He accused the jailers of torture and was sentenced to three years in prison.

After being released in 1984, he went to Afghanistan as the fight against the Soviet Union was at its height, and then to Pakistan, where he met bin Laden.

In 1998 al-Zawahiri merged his Islamic Jihad with bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, becoming bin Laden’s deputy and chief Islamic ideologue. That same year, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and others issued a statement calling for the killing of Americans around the world.

Biden said al-Zawahiri “carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American military personnel, American diplomats and American interests.”

But Zawahiri’s violence was not limited to Americans. He was a leading figure in a campaign to overthrow Egypt’s government in the 1990s that left more than 1,200 Egyptians dead. Reuters reported.

The group attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995 but failed. But he bombed the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, that year, killing 16 people as well as the two bombers.

“This is an individual, Zawahiri, who has been involved in terrorist activities for the last 40 years,” former CIA director John Brennan said Monday on MSNBC where he is an analyst.

Al-Zawahiri survived four attempts to kill or capture him from 2001 to 2007, NBC News reported.

He was targeted twice during fighting in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in 2001. In 2006, Hellfire missiles were fired at a location in Pakistan where he was believed to be, but Zawahiri released a video showing he was alive. and in 2007 there was an attack on Tora Bora in search of him but he was not found.

It was a CIA drone strike that killed al-Zawahiri, two people briefed on the matter told NBC News.

In 2020, there were rumors that Al-Zawahiri was dead after no video or proof of life surfaced, but a video surfaced in September 2021 and again in April and in May, the Associated Press reported at that time.

Biden said that US intelligence had located al-Zawahiri earlier this year and that the al-Qaida leader had moved to central Kabul to be reunited with family members.

Biden said he authorized a hit to kill him. None of al-Zawahiri’s family members or any other civilians were injured, Biden said.

Two Hellfire missiles were fired at al-Zawahiri while he was on the balcony of the safe house, a senior administration official said.

The deadly airstrike came nearly a year after the US military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan after a more than 20-year war.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday night that the U.S. was aware that al Qaeda was reestablishing a presence in Afghanistan, but would continue to monitor for threats.

“Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul certainly met that test because he was active in planning and plotting threats against our homeland in the future,” Kirby told MSNBC.

The 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people, including 343 New York City firefighters, 23 NYPD officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers.

Andrew Ansbro, president of the FDNY-Uniformed Firefighters Association, said an additional 290 firefighters have also died from 9/11-related illnesses.

“This action by the United States is a reminder to every terrorist involved in planning these attacks that the American people will never forget,” he said in a statement.

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