SEVERE WX : Dense Fog Advisory View Alerts

Where is bin Laden's partner in crime, Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Where the hell is Ayman al-Zawahiri and why don't we talk about him any more?Seventeen years ago, in ...

Posted: Sep 9, 2018 12:27 PM
Updated: Sep 9, 2018 12:27 PM

Where the hell is Ayman al-Zawahiri and why don't we talk about him any more?

Seventeen years ago, in the wake of the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, there were two names on the tips of American tongues: Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri. The former founded al Qaeda. Together, they oversaw the 9/11 attacks and the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Bin Laden was, of course, killed by SEAL Team Six in 2011, but in recent years, there's been nary a mention of his No. 2 who is seemingly alive and well.

al Qaeda

Asia

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Continents and regions

Hamza bin Laden

International relations and national security

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Misc people

National security

Osama Bin Laden

Pakistan

Peter Bergen

September 11

South Asia

Terrorism

Terrorism and counter-terrorism

Terrorist attacks

Unrest, conflicts and war

North America

The Americas

United States

Though his communiques don't get much media coverage, Zawahiri is still disseminating his message. In recent weeks, the al Qaeda media arm released two recordings featuring Zawahiri -- a half-hour audio message and five-minute video.

In the video, Zawahiri looks older than we remember him: wearing a white turban, with white shirt, matching his white beard and pasty skin. When the tape begins, there are two books near his folded hands. The backdrop is black and plain.

Zawahiri remains on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list, where his aliases include "The Doctor" and "The Teacher" and the reward is listed as "up to $25 million." But he is nowhere to be found on Interpol's most wanted list.

Zawahiri, who trained as a surgeon and is the son of a professor, grew up in a distinguished family in Egypt. He became involved in jihadist activities and was among hundreds imprisoned after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. He was one of the Mujahedeen who fought against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, as was bin Laden. The two met in 1987.

Zawahiri became the titular head of al Qaeda after bin Laden's death, but he lacks the former's charisma and never really filled his shoes.

In his 2012 book, "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 To Abbottabad," CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen correctly predicted that "Zawahiri is unlikely to turn things around for al Qaeda. Far from being the inspiring orator that bin Laden was, Zawahiri is more like the pedantic, long-winded uncle who insists on regaling the family at Thanksgiving dinner with accounts of his arcane disputes with obscure enemies."

Bergen was one of the few Western journalists to interview bin Laden. After bin Laden's death, Bergen was the only journalist to gain access to the compound where he was killed in Abbottabad. Last week, I asked Bergen for his thoughts as to Zawahiri's whereabouts. By email, he told me Zawahiri is quite likely hiding in Pakistan, just like his former cohort.

"We never hear about the hunt for him because it's conducted in secret, but that doesn't mean that CIA isn't looking for him," he said.

While Zawahiri's exact location isn't known, "there are pretty good indications, including some of the material found in Abbottabad" that point to the Pakistani port city of Karachi, CIA-veteran Bruce Riedel told Jeff Stein of Newsweek last year. But there are numerous logistical and diplomatic issues that preclude launching an operation similar to SEAL Team Six's raid against bin Laden in 2011. Several "authoritative sources" also told Newsweek that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) is continuing to protect Zawahiri and has been since 2001. Pakistan has denied it is hiding Zawahiri.

There have been several unsuccessful assassination attempts made by the US on Zawahiri, as recently as 2016 when the Obama administration initiated a drone attack in Pakistan's Shawal Valley that did little more than break his glasses, a source told Newsweek. And sadly, there was the 2009 tragedy near Khost, Afghanistan, in which a Jordanian physician duped his handlers into thinking he would deliver Zawahiri before detonating a bomb that killed five CIA officers and two contractors.

Bergen said that the now 67-year-old Zawahiri has been such an ineffective leader that the West might be better served leaving him in place. "Al Qaeda is now grooming [Osama's son] Hamza bin Laden for a leadership role. Hamza has the family name and is around 30 and would be a much more appealing leader than Zawahiri as al Qaeda positions itself for the post-ISIS world," he added.

Among the many still wishing for Zawahiri to meet his doom is Rob O'Neill, the US Navy Seal who killed bin Laden.

"My time serving is over but, I assure you, we have people out there who will go to get him," he said. O'Neill chronicled his career and takedown of bin Laden in his book, "The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior."

"Al Qaeda would prefer to stay out of the headlines until they conduct an attack that is successful enough to grab headlines," he explained. "Until then, they don't mind the appearance of taking a back seat. They don't mind seeming to be dwindling because they are in it for the long term. They realize that ISIS is better at making worldwide headlines because of their mastery of social media. ISIS will stab us in the front but al Qaeda wants to stab us in the back."

To his point, while ISIS has largely dominated headlines since bin Laden's death, al Qaeda is still a threat. Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of the Senate in March that al Qaeda "remains a serious and persistent threat to U.S. interests worldwide," and in South Asia, "retained the intent and limited capability to threaten coalition and Afghan forces and interests in the region."

Still, we said we'd never forget. And, as we approach Tuesday's 17th anniversary of 9/11, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Zawahiri remains at large.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1717876

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1793291843
Cuyahoga1681592655
Hamilton1137721544
Montgomery805721405
Summit719531210
Lucas630291027
Butler56852814
Stark538501183
Lorain42330645
Warren35959417
Mahoning35798788
Lake32314501
Clermont31289369
Trumbull27344620
Delaware27206185
Licking26658344
Medina26042353
Fairfield24638287
Greene24378373
Clark22122390
Portage21257283
Richland21102342
Wood20128248
Allen18969326
Miami17338352
Columbiana16905335
Muskingum16726207
Wayne15740307
Tuscarawas14454362
Marion13332196
Ashtabula12732237
Erie12685199
Scioto12475188
Pickaway12260155
Ross11719226
Hancock11529175
Geauga10934179
Lawrence10653172
Belmont10459234
Huron9805159
Jefferson9632228
Union957375
Sandusky9348166
Seneca8917161
Knox8792176
Washington8688159
Darke8399181
Athens838197
Ashland8029152
Auglaize7943120
Shelby7511135
Defiance7358117
Crawford7281150
Fulton7215113
Brown7173116
Logan7003111
Guernsey696186
Mercer6933100
Highland6745120
Clinton6526106
Williams650099
Madison649790
Preble6274140
Putnam6244122
Jackson581597
Champaign580887
Perry566779
Coshocton5645108
Ottawa5641102
Morrow517765
Fayette494072
Hardin4895100
Gallia471478
Van Wert467895
Pike465578
Adams4592110
Henry434280
Hocking410193
Holmes3999141
Wyandot377675
Carroll366178
Paulding325451
Meigs305961
Monroe235961
Noble220349
Morgan216939
Harrison213153
Vinton187638
Unassigned06
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 24°
Angola
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 27°
Huntington
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 29°
Decatur
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 23°
Van Wert
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 29°
Saturday is looking great, with warmer temperatures, wet and windy conditions returning Sunday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events