Saturday, January 14, 2006

Al Qaeda No. 2, Zawahiri May Be Dead

A US air strike in Pakistan may have killed al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri. At least 17 people died in the attack on a remote tribal areain Pakistan, although US sources said it was unclear whether he had died. Forensic tests will now be carried out to confirm whether Zawahiri or any other senior al Qaeda members were among the dead.
Zawahiri (right) and Bin Laden
Zawahiri is believed to be the chief organiser of al Qaeda and is the closest mentor to the terrorist organisation's leader, Osama bin Laden. The pair first met in the mid-1980s when both were in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar to support mujahideen guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have eluded capture since US-led forces toppled Afghanistan's militant Taliban government in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. Zawahiri is the son of a pharmacology professor and grandson of the grand imam of al Azhar, one of the most important mosques in the Arab world. When the militant Egyptian Islamic Jihad was founded in 1973, he joined. When members posed as soldiers and assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, he was among 301 people arrested. He went on trial but was cleared of involvement in Mr Sadat's death, although he spent three years in jail for possession of an unlicensed pistol.