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Profile: Ayman al-Zawahiri

 
  

Positions that Ayman al-Zawahiri has held:

  • Top al-Qaeda operative


 

Quotes

 
  

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Ayman al-Zawahiri actively participated in the following events:

 
  

January-May 1996: US Fails to Capture Mohammed Living Openly in Qatar      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Abdallah al-Thani.
Since Operation Bojinka was uncovered in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), nearly all of the plot's major planners, including Ramzi Yousef, are found and arrested. The one exception is 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He flees to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where he lives openly using his real name, enjoying the patronage of Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar's Interior Minister and a member of the royal family. [ABC News, 2/7/03] In January 1996, he is indicted in the US for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing, and in the same month, the US determines his location in Qatar. FBI Director Louis Freeh sends a letter to the Qatari government asking for permission to send a team after him. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] One of Freeh's diplomatic notes states that Mohammed was involved in a conspiracy to “bomb US airliners” and is believed to be “in the process of manufacturing an explosive device.” [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Qatar confirms that Mohammed is there and is making explosives, but they delay handing him over. After waiting several months, a high-level meeting takes place in Washington to consider a commando raid to seize him. However, the raid is deemed too risky, and another letter is sent to the Qatari government instead. One person at the meeting later states, “If we had gone in and nabbed this guy, or just cut his head off, the Qatari government would not have complained a bit. Everyone around the table for their own reasons refused to go after someone who fundamentally threatened American interests...” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] Around May 1996, Mohammed's patron, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, makes sure that Mohammed and four others are given blank passports and a chance to escape. Qatar's police chief later says the other men include Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda's number two and number three leaders, respectively. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02; ABC News, 2/7/03] Bin Laden twice visits al-Thani in Qatar. [ABC News, 2/7/03; New York Times, 6/8/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Louis J. Freeh
          

1998      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Talaat Fouad Qassem, 38, a known leader of the Islamic Group, an Egyptian extremist organization, is arrested and detained in Croatia as he travels from Bosnia to Denmark, where he has been granted political asylum. Qassem, allegedly an associate of Ayman Zawahiri, the “number-two man in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network,” is questioned aboard a US ship off the Croatian coast and then sent to Cairo, Egypt “where a military tribunal has already sentenced him to death in absentia.” [Washington Post, 3/11/2002 Sources: Unnamed Egyptian lawyers]
People and organizations involved: Talaat Fouad Qassem, Ayman al-Zawahiri
          

Mid-September 2000: Bin Laden Message Gives Hint of Upcoming USS Cole Attack      Complete 911 Timeline

       A videotape message featuring bin Laden calling for more attacks on the US is aired on al-Jazeera. The video ends with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri saying, “Enough of words, it is time to take action against this iniquitous and faithless force [the United States], which has spread troops through Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.” DIA analyst Kie Fallis later recalls, “Every time he put out one of these videotapes, it was a signal that action was coming.” He claims that after hearing of the video, he “knew then it would be within a month or two.” But nonetheless, his suggestion to put out a general attack warning will go unheeded (see May 2000-Late September 2000). An al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole follows less than a month later (see October 12, 2000). [Washington Times, 8/26/02]
People and organizations involved: Ayman al-Zawahiri, United States, Kie Fallis, Osama bin Laden
          

June 21, 2001: Senior al-Qaeda Officials Say Important Surprises Coming Soon      Complete 911 Timeline

       A reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company interviews Osama bin Laden. Keeping a promise made to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden does not say anything substantive, but Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda leaders promise that “[the] coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world.” [Associated Press, 6/25/01; Associated Press, 6/24/01] The reporter says, “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” [Reuters, 6/23/01] After 9/11, the reporter concludes, “I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 236] The reporter is also shown a several-months-old videotape with bin Laden declaring to his followers, “It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit him them where it hurts most.” [CNN, 6/21/01] Author James Bamford theorizes that the original 9/11 plot involved a simultaneous attack on Israel and that shoe bomber Richard Reid may have originally wanted to target an Israeli aircraft around this time. For instance, Reid flies to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2001, to test if airline security would check his shoes for bombs. [Bamford, 2004, pp 236-39]
People and organizations involved: Ayman al-Zawahiri, James Bamford, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar
          

July 4-14, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Receives Lifesaving Treatment in Dubai, Said to Meet with CIA While There      Complete 911 Timeline

      
The American Hospital in Dubai.
Bin Laden, America's most wanted criminal with a $5 million bounty on his head, supposedly receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American specialist Dr. Terry Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is possibly accompanied by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is said to be bin Laden's personal physician, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, and leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad), plus several bodyguards. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01; Times of London, 11/01/01; Agence France-Presse, 11/1/01] During his stay, bin Laden is visited by “several members of his family and Saudi personalities,” including Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. [Guardian, 11/1/01] On July 12, bin Laden reportedly meets with CIA agent Larry Mitchell in the hospital. Mitchell apparently lives in Dubai as an Arab specialist under the cover of being a consular agent. The CIA, the Dubai hospital, and even bin Laden deny the story. The two news organizations that broke the story, Le Figaro and Radio France International, stand by their reporting. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01; Radio France International, 11/1/01] The explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but there are only two, small wire service stories on it in the US. [Reuters, 11/10/01; UPI, 11/1/01] The Guardian claims that the story originated from French intelligence, “which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.” The Guardian adds that during his stay bin Laden is also visited by a second CIA officer. [Guardian, 11/1/01] In 2003, reporter Richard Labeviere will provide additional details of what he claims happened in a book entitled “The Corridors of Terror.” He claims he learned about the meeting from a contact in the Dubai hospital. He claims the event was confirmed in detail by a Gulf prince who presented himself as an adviser to the Emir of Bahrain. This prince claimed the meeting was arrange by Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's intelligence director. The prince said, “By organizing this meeting...Turki thought he could start direct negotiations between [bin Laden] and the CIA on one fundamental point: that bin Laden and his supporters end their hostilities against American interests.” In exchange, the CIA and Saudis would allow bin Laden to return to Saudi Arabia and live freely there. The meeting is said to be a failure. [Reuters, 11/14/03] On July 15, Larry Mitchell reportedly returns to CIA headquarters to report on his meeting with bin Laden. [Radio France International, 11/1/01] French terrorism expert Antoine Sfeir says the story of this meeting has been verified and is not surprising: It “is nothing extraordinary. Bin Laden maintained contacts with the CIA up to 1998. These contacts have not ceased since bin Laden settled in Afghanistan. Up to the last moment, CIA agents hoped that bin Laden would return to the fold of the US, as was the case before 1989.” [Le Figaro, 11/1/01] A CIA spokesman calls the entire account of bin Laden's stay at Dubai “sheer fantasy.” [Reuters, 11/14/03]
People and organizations involved: Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, Islamic Jihad, Terry Callaway, Larry Mitchell, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

August 2001: Bush Administration Rejects Plan to Capture Al-Zawahiri      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The US receives intelligence that bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is receiving medical treatment at a clinic in San'a, Yemen. However, the Bush administration rejects a plan to capture him, as officials are not 100 percent sure the patient is al-Zawahiri. Officials later regret the missed opportunity. [ABC News, 2/20/02]
People and organizations involved: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bush administration
          

Early December 2001: Battle for Tora Bora Is Called Charade      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Daily Telegraph later reports on the battle for Tora Bora around this time: “In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade.” Eyewitnesses express shock that the US pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan's new government says, “The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it. In addition, there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters had the Americans acted decisively. Al-Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet.” [Daily Telegraph, 2/23/02] It is believed that up to 2,000 were in the area when the battle began. The vast majority successfully flee, and only 21 al-Qaeda fighters are finally captured. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] The US relies on local forces “whose loyalty and enthusiasm were suspect from the start” to do most of the fighting. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02] Some of the local commanders drafted to help the US had ties to bin Laden going back to the 1980s. [New York Times, 9/30/02 (B)] These forces actually help al-Qaeda escape. An Afghan intelligence officer says he is astounded that Pentagon planners did not consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them. It is later widely believed that bin Laden escapes along one of these routes on November 30 or December 1, walking out with about four loyal followers. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02; Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02 (B)] Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also escapes the area. [Knight Ridder, 10/20/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Taliban, Osama bin Laden, US Department of Defense, Ayman al-Zawahiri
          

'Passive' participant in the following events:

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