Al-Qaida Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri: Al-Qaida leader and one of the masterminds behind the infamous 9/11 attacks, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed on Monday night in a US drone strike in Afghanistan. This is being considered as one of the biggest and significant setbacks to the Al-Qaida militant group in recent times.
Zawahiri had been on the radar of various intelligence groups for almost two decades now. Not many know this, but Al-Zawahri was actually an eye surgeon. So how did an eye surgeon ended up becoming the leader of al-Qaida? Let’s break it down.
Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri?
Al-Zawahri was reportedly an eye surgeon in the Egyptian army in his younger days. A Reuters report said that Zawahiri was a student at Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine in the 1970s. The people who accompanied him and knew him there described him as a lively young man who loved the cinema, and joked with friends.
According to an AP report, he roamed a lot in Central Asia and in the Middle East where he witnessed Afghans putting up a war against the Soviet troops. He helped other militants in expelling these troops from Afghanistan. He also met Osama bin Laden and in fact, was present when Laden founded al-Qaida. As per AP, Zawahiri merged his own Egyptian militant group with al-Qaida and implied a lot of his own organisational skills to the group. He took over the entire leadership of Al-Qaeda after Laden was hunted down by US forces in Jalalabad, Pakistan.
Why was Zawahiri’s killing important?
The number one target for the 9/11 attacks was always bin Laden. But it is important to note that he probably would have never been able to carry out these attacks with such precision, had Zawahiri not been on his side.
Post 9/11 attacks, Zawahiri also got involved in rebuilding the leadership of al-Qaida in the border region of Afghanistan-Pakistan, as per an AP report. The report suggests that after 9/11, the militant group also carried out attacks in Bali, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid, and London among others. After Laden’s death, Zawahiri gave a eulogy in which he promised to pursue attacks on the West,
Zawahiri quite often was also seen commenting on sensitive issues online, such as the policies of the US in the Middle East or actions of Israel against Palestinians. Reuters report said that he is also believed to have been involved in carrying out 2001 attacks, when airliners hijacked by al-Qaida were used to kill about 3000 people in the US.
Where does al-Qaida stand now?
It all depends on who the successor is. According to AP, Al-Qaida expert Ali Soufan has pointed towards an Egyptian, Saif al-Adl, as one of the candidates to lead al-Qaida. His experience is considered to play a crucial role in bringing those militants back to the group who in the past moved on to other militant groups.