Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri was an Egyptian terrorist who led the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda from June 2011 until his death in July 2022. US President Joe Biden confirmed his death in a successful operation in Afghanistan.

He was a former member and senior official of Islamist organisations that planned operations in Asia, Africa, and some in North America and Europe after Osama bin Laden‘s death. He appealed to Muslims to kidnap Westerners in Muslim countries in 2012.

Also read: US President Joe Biden confirms the death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri

Following the September 11 attacks, the United States State Department offered a US$25 million reward for data or intelligence leading to the detention of Ayman al-Zawahiri. As a member of al-Qaeda, he was sanctioned globally by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee in 1999.

Early Life

Ayman al-Zawahiri was considered a bright student. He did well in school, enjoyed poetry, and “hated violent sports,” which he considered “inhumane.” Al-Zawahiri studied medicine at Cairo University, graduating in 1974 with gayyid giddan, which is roughly equivalent to a “B” in the American grading system. Following that, he received multiple years of training as a surgeon in the Egyptian Army before opening a clinic in Maadi near his parents.

He also received a master’s degree in surgery in 1978. Ayman al-Zawahiri also demonstrates a radical mastery of Islamic theology and history. He is fluent in Arabic, English, and French.

Also read: Ayman al-Zawahiri family: Parents, wives, and children

As a student, Al-Zawahiri was involved in youth activism. Under the influence of his uncle Mahfouz Azzam and lecturer Mostafa Kamel Wasfi, he became both religious and political. Sayyid Qutb preached that in order to restore Islam and free Muslims, a vanguard of authentic Muslims modelled after the Prophet’s original Companions would need to be formed.

Al-Zawahiri entered the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 14. The Egyptian government killed Sayyid Qutb for conspiracy the next year, and al-Zawahiri, along with four other secondary school pupils, assisted in the formation of an “underground cell devoted to overthrowing the government and establishing an Islamist state.” 

Also read: US confirms ‘successful’ mission against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: All you need to know

At a young age, al-Zawahiri developed a life mission: “to put Qutb’s vision into action.” His cell later united with others to become al-Jihad, often known as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.