Dr Terror makes bin Laden `seem like a pussy cat'

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Dr Terror makes bin Laden `seem like a pussy cat'

Source: AAP|Published: Tuesday October 9, 12:36 PM

LONDON, PA - Constantly at the side of Osama bin Laden stands the man many believe to be the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Stocky, bespactacled Dr Ayman al-Zawahri is often referred to as the brains of the terrorism network al Qaida.

The 50-year-old Egyptian doctor is believed to have hatched the plot against the US using information from a fact-finding tour of the country 10 years ago.

Zawahri is believed to have spent the tour of the States, under an alias, collecting money from American Muslims, supposedly for Afghan widows and orphans.

This money was then used to fund terrorist activities, possibly even the September 11 attack.

US intelligence experts said that the assaults on New York and Washington bore the hallmarks of previous acts of terrorism attributed to bin Laden's deputy.

One CIA source described him as being ``so dangerous he makes bin Laden look like a pussy cat'', the Mirror newspaper reported.

As one of many Egyptians recruited into the al Qaida network, agents are investigating his possible connection with the man believed to be the ringleader of the suicide hijackers, Mohammad Atta.

Zawahri is believed to have first met bin Laden in Pakistan in 1987. At the time bin Laden helped train and finance a group of ``Afghan Arabs'' - Islamic volunteers who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Those fighters now form the foundation of bin Laden's al Qaida network and Zawahri himself is believed to be the most likely successor to the leadership of the organisation.

He joined bin Laden's group in 1998, having moved to Afghanistan with his wife and children in what he believed to be a ``hijrat'' (migration) in God and Allah's cause.

He hoped to turn bin Laden from a financial backer of the Afghan resistance into a believer in the ideology of ``jihad'' (holy war), fighting against the enemies of Islam.

In the first few months Zawahri, bin Laden and others were indicted in New York for the role they were suspected to have played in the bombing of two American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed 224 people.

Zawahri has been a fixture among Egypt's Islamic extremists since 1966, when, at the age of 15, he was arrested for his membership of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world's oldest fundamentalist Muslim group. He was later released.

He became leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group blamed for the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat, in 1981.

Since 1999, he has been listed as one of Egypt's most wanted men after he was accused of the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan and other acts of violence.

He was sentenced to death in absence by an Egyptian court that year for activities linked to the Islamic Jihad.

Zawahri was born into a prosperous and prestigious family in Cairo who gave him a pedigree grounded firmly in both religion and politics.

In 1974, he graduated from Cairo University's medical school and obtained a master's degree in surgery four years later.

His father, who died in 1995, was a pharmacology professor at the same university.

He has been described as a very intelligent but quiet man, who rarely speaks in public but is extremely dedicated to the cause of Islam.

In 1998 he told a Pakistani reporter: ``Tell the Americans that we are not afraid of the bombardment, threats and acts of aggression.

``We suffered and survived Soviet bombings for 10 years in Afghanistan, and we are ready for more sacrifices.''


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 09, 2001

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