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The Mind of an Al-Qa'ida Terrorist

The following report appeared in the Winter 2002 edition of the journal "Terrorism and Political Violence." It was authored by Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli, a senior analyst at MEMRI.

Preface

Few individuals have had a more central role in articulating and practicing terrorism than Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Though born into the Egyptian aristocracy and trained as a surgeon, this gifted individual has always been attracted to the most extreme forms of Islam. In 1998 he brought his Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization into a union with the forces of Osama bin Laden, known as Al-Qa'ida (the base), in the effort to create a globalized network of terror whose capacities were demonstrated on September 11, 2001, as well as in the earlier destruction of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and in the damage inflicted on the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden.

Introduction

Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a surgeon by profession, is the head of the Egyptian "Islamic Jihad" and second in command of the Al-Qa'ida organization. He is the intellectual and ideological force behind it and its leader, Osama bin Laden. Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, says Al-Zawahiri "is their ideologue... His ideas negate the existence of common ground with other Islamist groups."

Following the air attacks by the United States on the Al-Qa'ida bases in Afghanistan, and fearing that he might be killed, Al-Zawahiri was able to smuggle to England a short manuscript detailing the evolution and the travails of the Islamic Jihad and his association with the Islamist movements in Egypt and, ultimately, with bin Laden. The book, titled "Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet," with the subtitle "Reflections into the Jihad Movement," was serialized in the London-based Saudi newspaper Ai-Sharq Al-Awsat between December 2-12, 2001. In addition, "a combination of happenstance and the opportunism of war" allowed a reporter of the Wall Street Journal to acquire for $1100 in Kabul Al-Qa'ida computers left behind following the escape of their operators. The reporter was able to download hundreds of files regarding the organization, particularly concerning Al-Zawahiri's internal correspondence and mode of operation.


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