Al Qaeda Replaces Bin Laden: Who Is Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Ayman ZawahiriThe death of Osama bin Laden not only brings on a host of emotions, it brings on a host of questions. Things like "What's going to happen next?" "Should I be worried?" and "Who is going to be the next leader of Al Qaeda?" are probably a few of the many things swirling around in your head right now.

While the first two questions are difficult to answer, the third is fairly easy. Despite the fact that Osama bin Laden was Al Qaeda's only commander in its 22-year history, most likely the new leader will be Ayman al-Zawahiri, his less charismatic and less respected second-in-command. And here are five things you should know about him.


He goes by many names. Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born doctor, has used the following names and aliases: Abu Muhammad, Abu Fatima, Muhammad Ibrahim, Abu Abdallah, Abu al-Mu'iz, The Doctor, The Teacher, Nur, Ustaz, Abu Mohammed Nur al-Deen, Abdel Muaz.

His arrest is worth millions. As you may have suspected, al-Zawahiri is on Washington's most-wanted list. He was indicted in the United States for the bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998. There is a $25 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

He was married with five kids. In 1978 al-Zawahiri married Azza Ahmed Nowar, and together the couple has four girls and one boy. Nowar and 4-year-old daughter Aisha, who had Down syndrome, both died shortly after 9/11.

After the bombing of a Taliban officials building, Azza was pinned under debris of a guesthouse roof. She "refused to be excavated" because "men would see her face." Aisha had not been hurt by the attack, but died from exposure to the cold while the rescuers tried to save Azza.

He wasn't always violent. According to the 2006 book, The Looming Tower, when Ayman was growing up in Cairo, he was an excellent student who loved poetry, "hated violent sports" -- because he felt they were "inhumane" -- and had a deep affection for his mother.

You've probably seen him before. Ayman has appeared in several video and audiotapes urging Muslims to join the jihad against the United States and its allies. Some of these tapes have been followed closely by terrorist attacks.

In May 2003, days after a tape allegedly containing al-Zawahiri's voice was released, suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed 23 people, including nine Americans.

On an October 2002 tape, a voice thought to be al-Zawahiri's said, "America and its deputies should know that their crimes will not go unpunished .... The settlement of this overburdened account will indeed be heavy. We will also aim to continue, by permission of Allah, the destruction of the American economy." Yikes.

What do you think about Ayman al-Zawahiri?


Image via FBI

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