Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda leader killed in a US attack, was seen as the brains behind bin Laden’s terror group

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President Biden announced Monday that the US had killed an al-Qaeda leader Aiman ​​al-Zawahiri in a drone attack in Afghanistan. The terrorist leader was 71.

Although not as well known as Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was believed to be the real architect behind the worst terrorist attacks in US history on September 11, 2001. For years he was known as Al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, and analysts say he was really the mastermind behind the operation.

Mr. Biden said Monday his hope was that the action taken against al-Zawahiri “concludes another action” for those who lost loved ones on 9/11. With the death of al-Zawahiri, all the top conspirators are the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are now either dead or captured.

Al-Zawahiri has long been a wanted man. After the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush released a list of the FBI’s 22 Most Wanted Terrorists – al-Zawahiri topping the list along with bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US special forces in 2011, but al-Zawahiri evaded attempts on his life and an international manhunt for over a decade.

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, left, sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview with a Pakistani journalist at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan for an article published November 10, 2001.

Getty Images


Born into a prominent Egyptian family, Al-Zawahiri attended the best schools in Cairo and became a practicing doctor. As a teenager, he became active in Islamic fundamentalism and joined Islamic Jihad. When the group assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, al-Zawahiri was among hundreds arrested and brought to justice.

He was expelled from Egypt in 1984 after serving his sentence and emigrated to Afghanistan. There he met bin Laden and they formed a bond, bringing together al-Zawahiri’s Islamic Jihad ties and bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. Together they shared a common motive – to kill Americans, military and civilians alike. After other attacks, their conspiracy culminated on September 11, 2001.

While al Qaeda has declined in importance and influence, it continues to be violent in the Middle East and Africa.

The successful strike against al-Zawahiri comes about a year later US troops withdrew from Afghanistan, ending the military presence that had begun two decades earlier after 9/11. The decision to withdraw was controversial, and the chaotic process was marked by the deaths of some US troops and many more Afghans as the Taliban took control.

— Charlie D’Agata contributed to this report.



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