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Ayman Al-Zawahiri Was Al-Qaeda Hate-Filled Heart, While Bin Laden Served As Its Public Face


About 40 years ago, when the world’s media recorded Ayman al-rants Zawahiri from a cage at the back of an Egyptian courtroom, it was one of the last times the al-Qaida leader was in the spotlight.

He was heard shouting in front of the cameras about the Egyptian jailers’ torture of him and other prisoners. He began the group’s chant by saying: “Our faith is Islam. Our faith is Islam.”

In addition to turning Zawahiri against the Egyptian government, his time in prison there also served as the catalyst for his lifelong animosity toward the United States.

This animosity was passed on when al-Zawahiri eventually allied himself with Osama bin Laden, but it came to an end for him on Sunday local time in Afghanistan when a U.S. drone fired two hellfire missiles at a safe house in Kabul, killing him.

Al-Zawahiri served as Osama bin Laden’s assistant during the 9/11 attacks and was “deeply involved in the planning,” President Biden said on Monday.

Biden continued, mentioning the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, “For decades he was the mastermind behind attacks against Americans.”

After bin Laden was killed by American forces in 2011, Biden went into detail about the al-leadership of Zawahiri of al-Qaida, including his recent calls for attacks against the United States and its allies.

Al-Zawahiri had a reputation for being abrasive and dogmatic, but Bruce Hoffman, director of the Georgetown University Center for Peace and Security Studies, predicted in 2011 that he might end up being an even more potent leader than bin Laden.

“Unlike bin Laden, he had the street cred at having been a dyed-in-the-wool terrorist from the time he was a teenager,” Hoffman said. “OK, he’s not as telegenic as bin Laden. He lacks bin Laden’s charisma. He doesn’t have bin Laden’s mellifluous voice, but he still is a very powerful figure within the movement.”

Building a foundation for a larger Islamist movement had become Bin Laden’s mantra. He desired working for a company that could survive without him. And in the ten years since bin Laden’s death, al-Zawahiri has continued it.

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