A doctor by profession, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri was born in 1951 in a prosperous family in Cairo, Egypt. Rejecting his family fortune, at the age of 14, he had joined the Muslim Brotherhood. Though Zawahri met Osama bin Laden in Jeddah, it was in Pakistan where the two worked closely together.
He first arrived in Pakistan in 1985 to work as a surgeon at a Red Cross hospital in Peshawar. Drawn by bin Laden, then running a base for mujahideen called Maktab al-Khadamat, Zawahri started working as his personal physician.
While al Qaeda has been active in Pakistan for year, it was in 2007 that a direct link was found between Zawahri, then the deputy head of the terror outfit, and its attacks on Pakistan. The outfit’s presence came to light after Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf laid siege of the jihadists holed up inside Islamabad’s Lal Masjid.
Within three years, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda had merged and Zawahri became bin Laden’s deputy. He took over the reins after bin Laden was killed in 2011. Since then he has remained largely in the background but with the ISIS stealing some of al Qaeda’s thunder, it is believed that Zawahri is now trying to re-assert himself and the organisation.