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Profiles of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Aired May 10, 2003 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. He's the world's most wanted man, the mastermind behind the attacks on September 11th.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): We declared a jihad, a holy war, against the United States government.


ANNOUNCER: The son of a Saudi multimillionaire who's used his money and power to form a terrorist network.

Personal insights from someone who met him face to face.


PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He appeared to be somebody who was very subdued.


ANNOUNCER: Osama bin Laden's journey to jihad.

Then, he's the man who has bin Laden's ear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's his closest adviser; has worked with bin Laden for a long time. They've known each other since 1987.


ANNOUNCER: A 50-year-old surgeon from Egypt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a genius doctor.


ANNOUNCER: Accused of plotting and planning violence for decades; a man who has declared war on America.

The two top officials in the al Qaeda terrorist network: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn.

Since the September 11 attacks, a number of top-tier al Qaeda operatives have been arrested in the war on terror. Just last week police in Pakistan rounded up a half dozen al Qaeda suspects.

But the one at the very top of the list, Osama bin Laden, remains unaccounted for.

Mike Boettcher has our profile of the world's most wanted man.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Osama bin Laden got word of the first attack on the World Trade Center, those in the room with him that day say he prayed and wept, shouted Allah Akhbar! God is great!

And then signaled his followers that more attacks were on the way.


BIN LADEN (through translator): They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building, so I said to them, be patient.


BOETTCHER: Later, he would talk about that event in cold-blooded fashion, drawing on his own background in construction and demolition.


BIN LADEN (through translator): Due to my experience in the field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit, and all the floors above it only.

This is all that we hoped for.


BOETTCHER: The horror of 9/11 was to Osama bin Laden a triumph of planning and engineering. To him and al Qaeda, a great victory against an enemy, America, that they had been at war with for years.

Osama bin Laden had escalated that war, striking America within its own borders, something he had been working towards for years.

Osama bin Laden's journey towards jihad in global terrorism began in Saudi Arabia in 1957. He was the 17th of more than 50 children of a self-made billionaire. His father was from Yemen, but by the time Osama was born, he was head of what would be the largest construction firm in Saudi Arabia, a friend of the royal family.

Mohammed bin Laden would die in a plane crash when Osama was ten.

BERGEN: As a teenager, bin Laden was religiously quite devout, according to both family members and also people who know - knew - him. He also became interested in the family business, started working in the family business. You know, in his late teens. And then eventually studied public administration at university.

BOETTCHER: It was in his late teens that Osama bin Laden married the first of his four wives, a Syrian-born cousin.

Then, in 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, like many young Muslim men of his generation, found his calling.

Joining the Mujahideen, the holy warriors, who were helping the Afghans, fight against the Communists. Influenced in part by one of his professors, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, who would become his mentor during the Afghan struggle.

Bin Laden first helped with money, using it to set up a series of guesthouses for the Mujahideen, coming to Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan from around the Arab world.

He also obtained construction equipment from Saudi Arabia, and used the skills he had learned working in the family business.

BERGEN: He applied the lessons he learned from the demolition side of business to building crude shelters in the mountains of Afghanistan.

BOETTCHER: But then bin Laden took up arms. By the late '80s he was a hero and a leader to the men known as the Afghan Arabs, who had made their way to Afghanistan to be part of the struggle.

Then, as the war was winding down, bin Laden and his mentor, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam founded a group called al Qaeda, the base.

ROHAN GUNARATNA, AUTHOR, "INSIDE AL QAEDA": According to the founding talk of al Qaeda, on March 1988 when al Qaeda was founded, it states that al Qaeda is the pioneering vanguard of the Islamic movement. It is the spirit of Islam.

BOETTCHER: And this so-called pioneering vanguard, which wanted to continue holy war around the world, began to view another country as the enemy, a country which, ironically, had spent billions funding the Afghan resistance to the Soviets through the CIA.

When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, a personal encounter with the world's most wanted man.

BERGEN: He appeared to be somebody who was very subdued, didn't raise his voice above a whisper.


BOETTCHER: August 1990. Saddam Hussein sends Iraqi forces into Kuwait. Within days, Iraqi troops are poised on Saudi Arabia's border.

They are in striking distance of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

By this time, Osama bin Laden has returned to Saudi Arabia and he makes a proposal to a member of the Saudi royal family. His men, the battle-hardened Mujahideen who had fought in Afghanistan will help protect Mecca and Medina from Saddam Hussein -- a man he despised as a bad Muslim.

Dr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a Saudi dissident. He recounts bin Laden's proposal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He talked to the Saudi authorities, trying to convince them that he can -- he can arrange a plan to defend Arabia if their country cannot do it.

Can bring all types of Mujahideen to protect Arabia and he even written this plan and hand it over to the Saudi authorities. He says that we don't need to rely on, quote, infidels like the Americans to protect us.

BOETTCHER: But instead the Saudi government agreed to let American troops into the country, rejecting bin Laden's proposal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was actually harassed after giving this advice and he was put in sort of house arrest, asked not to leave at all. So he thought since then that there is American-Saudi conspiracy to control the land of Arabia. And that made a surge, in his opinion, against the U.S.

BOETTCHER: Even after the end of the Gulf War, American troops stayed in Saudi Arabia and they were the ones in effect now guarding the Muslim holy sites, not Osama bin Laden, and to him that was unthinkable.

Bin Laden was forced to leave Saudi Arabia in 1991. He moved to Sudan, which had a fundamentalist Islamic government. It's not clear how much money bin Laden had at his disposal from his share of the family business.

Estimates range from $1 million to more than $250 million. But, he had enough money to be an honored guest of the Sudanese government.

BERGEN: During that period, bin Laden was clearly the largest businessman in Sudan. He had literally thousands of people working for him on his farms.

He had banks, he had leather tanneries. He had a very wide range of businesses including construction, which of course is the family business.

Bin Laden was also busy building up al Qaeda as a terrorist organization. He set up training camps and began to build up al Qaeda cells and alliances in the Middle East and East Africa.

During a 1997 interview, bin Laden would reveal how in 1993, al Qaeda helped Somali militias shoot down two U.S. Army Black hawk helicopters, killing 18.


BIN LADEN (through translator): With Allah's grace, Muslims in Somalia cooperated with some Arab holy warriors who were in Afghanistan. Together they killed large numbers of American occupation troops.


BOETTCHER: Bin Laden would also be linked to attacks on those U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia that he so strongly opposed. The attacks in Riyadh in 1995 and Dhahran a year later would kill 24 Americans. At the time, bin Laden denied involvement but praised the attackers.


BIN LADEN (through translator): It's no secret that during the two explosions, I was not in Saudi Arabia, but I have great respect for the people who did this. They are heroes. What they did is a big honor that I missed participating in.


BOETTCHER: Bin Laden was also named, in 1995, as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Ramzi Yousef, the man convicted as the mastermind of that attack, had stayed in a bin Laden guesthouse after he fled America.

Again, in his 1997 interview with CNN, bin Laden would deny a role.


BIN LADEN (through translator): I don't know Ramzi Yousef; what the American government and Pakistani intelligence has been reporting isn't true at all.


BOETTCHER: By 1996, bin Laden was wearing out his welcome in Sudan. The U.S. was pressuring the Sudanese government to kick him out, and bin Laden returned to Afghanistan.

That's where the CNN interview took place. Peter Bergen was the producer. BERGEN: We went to Afghanistan, to the tiny town of Jalalabad, which is in eastern Afghanistan, waited around for quite some time. Finally, bin Laden's media adviser came and talked to us.

He said you can only bring the clothes you're wearing, don't bring any watches, don't bring anything that might secret some sort of tracking device.

We took a van, a curtained van, along a road, along a river. It was by now getting to be dusk. We were given sunglasses, which you couldn't see through these things.

We finally got to this hut about five or six hours deep up in the Afghan mountains. It was March so it was pretty cold.

Suddenly bin Laden appears out of the darkness.

BOETTCHER: Bergen and the CNN crew spent more than an hour with bin Laden.

BERGEN: We didn't know really what to expect because this was his first television interview. But he -- he appeared to be somebody who was very subdued. He didn't raise his voice above a whisper.

He's very tall, 6 foot 5. So my main impression of him was despite the fact that he was attacking the United States very strongly in this interview was that he delivered the whole tirade in a very low-key subdued kind of way.

BOETTCHER: And, bin Laden made it clear that he was at war with America, calling for a jihad, a holy war. He said America was unjust and tyrannical.

At the time, in 1997, he claimed his jihad was limited to military targets.


BIN LADEN (through translator): We have focused declaration of jihad on striking at the U.S. soldiers inside Arabia, the country of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina.

In our religion it is not permissible for any non-Muslims to stay in Arabia. Therefore, even though the American civilians are not targeted in our plan, they must leave. We do not guarantee their safety.


BOETTCHER: A year later, in 1998, bin Laden would leave no doubt that he was at war with America. He invited journalists to hear him issue a fatwah, a proclamation, calling on Muslims to kill Americans everywhere, and announce what was essentially a coalition of Islamic terrorist groups.

Bin Laden made it clear he wanted the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia and into Israel and an end to the U.N. boycott against Iraq.


BIN LADEN (through translator): By God's grace, thanks to Him we declared as many scholars dead that it is mandatory that we struggle and do jihad to get the Americans out of the Arabian peninsula. And jihad is mentioned here. It is to me carrying the weapon and to kill those Americans.


BOETTCHER: Bin Laden was flanked by his military commander, Muhammad Atef, and the man who was the leader of Egypt's al Jihad group, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Al Qaeda and al Jihad had been working together already for years.

At that 1998 meeting with journalists, Osama bin Laden was asked how he and al Qaeda hoped to take on the United States. Bin Laden reminded journalists that his men had already helped defeat one superpower, forcing it out of Afghanistan.

Now they were ready to declare war on America, and make it leave his homeland by any means necessary.

BIN LADEN: If it is clear to you what our strength is, the Americans and Jews know what our strength is and they will withdraw from the Arabian Peninsula.

BOETTCHER: Bin Laden hinted that there would be more news in the near future.

Coming up, the terrifying realization of exactly what that news was.


BOETTCHER: Less than 11 weeks later, al Qaeda made good on its threat. Watching simultaneous suicide bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The date was August 7, 1998. Eight years to the day that the first U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia.

A few weeks later, the U.S. would retaliate, launching Cruise missiles at what it said were al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States launched an attack this morning on one of the most active terrorist bases in the world. It is located in Afghanistan, and operated by groups affiliated with Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOETTCHER: But the retaliation was a disaster. Neither bin Laden nor his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri were anywhere near the camps.

But they turned up later to thumb their noses at the U.S. and across the Muslim world; Osama bin Laden became something of a cult hero. But to the American government, he was the most wanted man in the world, and bin Laden wasn't through.

A series of attacks against America around the time of the millennium was averted, but in October 2000, al Qaeda struck again.

A boat packed with explosives rammed the U.S.S. Cole while it was arriving at a harbor in Yemen. Seventeen American sailors died.

Early the next year in January 2001, bin Laden appeared in a video showing the wedding of his son to the daughter of his military commander, Muhammad Atef.

There was more video a few months later. In this, bin Laden seemed to hint of an attack but he didn't say where.

The plan, it turned out, had been in the offing for more than a year. Simultaneous attacks on New York and Washington. A cadre of young men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, recruited for the suicide mission.


BIN LADEN (through translator): Those young men, sent in deeds in New York and Washington, speeches that overshadow all other speeches made everywhere else in the world.


GUNARATNA: Osama bin Laden's main reason to strike the United States was because Osama wanted to create Islamic states in the Arabian Peninsula and north Africa. And the United States was protecting, was shielding those countries. The United States is the head of the snake, was preventing those states from becoming Islamic.

BOETTCHER: But by this time, says Gunaratna, Osama bin Laden may have overreached himself. In the past, he says, bin Laden had been openly contemptuous of the U.S. and perhaps never believed it would mobilize and help route the Taliban government that was providing his safe haven in Afghanistan.

This statement was released to Al-Jazeera the same day American planes began bombing Afghanistan.


BIN LADEN (through translator): There is America, bit by God in one of its softest spot, its greatest buildings were destroyed, thank God for that. There is America, full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that.


BOETTCHER: The northern Alliance victory over the Taliban turned bin Laden into a man on the run. There were occasional video appearances though the dates were unclear.

His last known whereabouts at the siege of ToraBora in eastern Afghanistan during late November and early December.

According to one account from a member of al Qaeda, U.S. bombs falling on ToraBora missed bin Laden by a little more than 200 yards. And intelligence sources told CNN that bin Laden was injured at ToraBora and later had an operation that he disappeared over the border into Pakistan.

There were rumors, sightings, intelligence reports. There were even letters said to be from him posted on the Internet warning of future attacks.

Then, right before the anniversary of 9/11, this tape, praising each of the hijackers by name.

A month later on the anniversary of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, another audiotape, calling on Americans to convert to Islam. Experts could not put a date on either tape. But finally in November of last year, proof that bin Laden was still alive.

A tape praising a string of recent attacks, some of them claimed by al Qaeda.


BIN LADEN (through translator): The killing of the British and Australians and the body explosions -- the recent Moscow operation -- and some operations here and there -- are all reactions and treatment in kind dealt by the zealous sons of Islam in defense of their religion.


BOETTCHER: On February 11, 2003, a voice experts believed to be bin Laden's could be heard once again across international airways.

As the United States grew closer to launching an attack against Saddam Hussein, bin Laden's purported new audio recording expressed solidarity with the Iraqi people.

The tape urged Muslims worldwide to defend themselves by hitting America with renewed violence.


BIN LADEN (through translator): People in Jordan and Morocco and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia and Yemen, it is no secret this crusade targets Muslims.

Whether the Socialist Party and Saddam stay or go, those Muslims, especially in Iraq, need to prepare themselves for jihad. But arming themselves this is their Islamic duty. God says they must take their weapons and prepare themselves.


BOETTCHER: These most recent messages, said Peter Bergen, were consistent with bin Laden's long-standing arguments.

BERGEN: When we met with him in '97, his main political message was the following: get American troops out of Saudi Arabia, stop U.S. support for Israel, stop the U.S. campaign against Iraq, and stop support for Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

And he's being very consistent about that political message. His statements always kind of return to these themes.

And, in the November message, another familiar theme. This warning that more attacks from al Qaeda should be expected.


BIN LADEN (through translator): Just as you kill, you will get killed, and just as you shell, you will get shelled. Await them what will disarm (ph).


BOETTCHER: Providing an eerie echo of a statement he made in 1997 to CNN, when he was asked then about his plans for the future.


BIN LADEN (through translator): You'll see them and hear about them in the media. God willing.



ZAHN: In the latest audiotape reportedly from Osama bin Laden the terrorist leader does make mention of the war with Iraq. On the 27-minute tape, bin Laden calls for suicide attacks against American and British interests to, quote, "avenge the innocent children of Iraq."

ANNOUNCER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, Osama bin Laden's number two man.


BERGEN: Ayman al-Zawahiri's influence on bin Laden has been profound. His influence on his thinking, to become more radical, more anti-American. And also more violent.



BIN LADEN (through translator): We want to speak to whole world.


ANNOUNCER: The Egyptian doctor who became one of the heads of al Qaeda. That's next.


ZAHN: And welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. If Osama bin Laden were to be captured or killed, the reins of al Qaeda would likely be handed over to bin Laden's so-called No. 2, Ayman al- Zawahiri. He is not the world's most wanted man, but authorities say he is every bit as dangerous. Here again is Mike Boettcher.


BOETTCHER (voice-over): Ayman al-Zawahiri is usually seen at Osama bin Laden's side, his ally, his confidant. Like bin Laden, al- Zawahiri has a price on his head. He's been targeted not just for his role in the September 11 attacks. He's also been indicted for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

BERGEN: Ayman al-Zawahiri is effectively bin Laden's number two.

BOETTCHER: Like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri comes from a privileged background. The al-Zawahiri family lives in a well-off suburb of Cairo. One grandfather was a renowned Muslim scholar, his father, a prominent doctor. There is even an Al-Zawahiri Street.

Mahfouz Azzam is Ayman al-Zawahiri's uncle. He describes his nephew as a quiet boy who read a lot, was a star student. He says Ayman was always calm, relaxed, and deeply religious.

MAHFOUZ AZZAM, AL-ZAWAHIRI'S UNCLE: He was known as a good Muslim keen to pray at the mosque and to read and to think and to have his own decisions. He can know what is the right and what is wrong in what he reads.

BOETTCHER: Ayman al-Zawahiri's political involvement began during the reign of President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1960s.

(on camera): Al-Zawahiri was a medical student in his teens when he joined Al-Jihad. It was one of the many groups opposing the regime, instead favoring an Islamic state.

(voice-over): After Nasser's death, Anwar Sadat took power. First Sadat fought Israel, then, in the late '70s, he began to make peace with the Jewish state.

At home, agitation against Sadat increased. Like Ayman al- Zawahiri, Kamal Habib was a Muslim activist. He advocated violence against the Sadat regime.

KAMAL HABIB, ISLAMIC ACTIVIST (through translator): We thought at the time that the goal to apply the laws of Islam can't be achieved with ways other than violence.

BOETTCHER: In October 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists. The actual assassins were tried and convicted in a military court, but there was a second trial. Al-Zawahiri, along with Kamal Habib and 300 other activists, was rounded up and tried on conspiracy charges.

Because al-Zawahiri was fluent in English, he became a spokesman when the international media was allowed to interview the group.


AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: We want to speak to the whole world. Who are we? Who are we? Why did they bring us here? And what we want to say? About the first question, we are Muslims. We are Muslims who believe in their religion, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) proud feeling, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and ideology and practice.


BOETTCHER: The court would eventually find that al-Zawahiri did not participate in the assassination plot. Nevertheless, al-Zawahiri harshly condemned Sadat for corruption and for making peace with Israel.


AL-ZAWAHIRI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prosperity (UNINTELLIGIBLE) declared by the stupid agent Anwar Sadat. (shouts in Arabic)

UNIDENTIFIED MALES: (shout in Arabic)




BOETTCHER: Al-Zawahiri also told reporters that the detainees had been tortured.


AL-ZAWAHIRI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they kicked us, they beated us, they whipped us with the electric cable, they shocked us with electricity. They shocked us with electricity, and they used their wild dogs -- and they used their wild dogs, and they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) us over the edges of the dogs with our hands tied at the back.


BOETTCHER: Kamal Habib confirms that torture was commonplace, and it was brutal.

HABIB: The methods of torture are known to everyone. Honestly, I prefer not to talk about it. But back then, it was on a very large scale.

BOETTCHER: Until he got to prison, al-Zawahiri was, by all accounts, not a leader in his group, which was known as Al-Jihad.

HABIB : Ayman al-Zawahiri had a minor role. There were many who followed the Jihad organization belief and didn't contribute in a direct way. And Ayman was one of them.

BOETTCHER: But journalist Mohammed Salah says the interview with the international media showed that after 14 months in prison, al- Zawahiri was emerging in the top ranks of the militants.

MOHAMMED SALAH, "AL-HAYAT" NEWSPAPER (through translator): Because of Ayman al-Zawahiri's charisma, he was able to speak on behalf of his colleagues and express opinions on their behalf.

BOETTCHER: General Fouad Allam interrogated al-Zawahiri when he was in prison. He says he was struck by the young doctor's demeanor.

GEN. FOUAD ALLAM (RET.), EGYPTIAN SECURITY SERVICES (through translator): He was a very normal person. He was very decent, very calm, and above all this, shy.

BOETTCHER: Others would call this something else, not shyness but a passion for secrecy that would be, along with his leadership skills, one of al-Zawahiri's hallmarks.

When we return, Ayman al-Zawahiri takes up the Afghan cause and meets the man who would become America's public enemy number one.


BOETTCHER: They came from all over the world to Afghanistan to defend their religion, Islam. After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in the late '70s, young Muslims came to make a jihad, a holy war, against communism. Osama bin Laden answered the call. So did Ayman al-Zawahiri.

He had graduated from medical school in 1974 and was practicing as a surgeon when he made his first trip to Afghanistan in 1979. His uncle says he went there to offer his medical services.

AZZAM: He went to Afghanistan, to Peshawar, Pakistan. He worked there in the Red Cross hospital.

BOETTCHER: Most of his colleagues were still in prison back in Egypt, so Afghanistan was, ironically, a safe place to be for men like al-Zawahiri, says Dia'a Rashwan.

DIA'A RASHWAN, AL-AHRAM CENTER: It was a paradise and a secure place for this runaway, from their own government. And this -- and at the same time, you can make your jihad.

BOETTCHER: Al-Zawahiri not only tended to the wounded, he also established a base for Egyptians coming to fight and reestablished Al- Jihad. But he let someone else run the group, says reporter Mohammed Salah, while remaining behind the scenes.

SALAH: It is said that Ayman al-Zawahiri was always away from the spotlight. He didn't like to be in the picture. He didn't talk to the media. He didn't give statements with his name.

BOETTCHER: But coming to Afghanistan to make a jihad took its toll on Ayman al-Zawahiri and the other men, who came to be known as the Afghan Arabs.

HABIB: I believe those people who went to Afghanistan started thinking differently than those who stayed in prisons. I believe Afghanistan changed them to what I call the militarization of Islamic thought.

BOETTCHER: The holy war against the Soviets ended in victory, but there was no place for Ayman al-Zawahiri or many of the Afghan Arabs to go.

(on camera): Faced with increasing terrorist threat from Islamic groups, the Egyptian government considered the Afghan Arabs too dangerous to allow them to return here.

AZZAM: If a man practice his religion and it is one of the five pillars in our Islam is jihad, if a man practices his religion, these governments consider him a criminal.

BOETTCHER: Ayman al-Zawahiri first met Osama bin Laden in Peshawar in 1987, something he talked about more than a decade later.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: We are working with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bin Laden, in all his (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Sudan and many other places.

BOETTCHER: In 1991, al-Zawahiri moved with bin Laden from Afghanistan to Sudan, but al-Zawahiri spent much of the next few years traveling in secret, organizing networks. He went to places like Yemen, and in 1995, using an alias, he even visited this California mosque on a fund-raising trip.

Ayman al-Zawahiri's group, Al-Jihad, targeted the Egyptian government during the '90s. It was accused of trying to unsuccessfully assassinate the prime minister and the interior minister. Then in 1995, it blew up the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad.

When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Ayman al-Zawahiri remains in the shadows and declares war on the United States.



BOETTCHER: Ayman al-Zawahiri emerged from the shadows in 1998. He and Osama bin Laden went public with their terrorist alliance in May of that year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIN LADEN (through translator): By God's grace, we have formed with many other Islamic groups and organizations in the Islamic world a front called the International Islamic Front to do jihad against the crusaders and the Jews.

BOETTCHER: They issued a fatwa, a declaration criticizing the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, the embargo against Iraq and Israel's control of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The fatwa said, "The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation for every Muslim."

To terrorism expert Peter Bergen and others, the fatwa was a sign that bin Laden was taking his lead from al-Zawahiri.

BERGEN: Ayman al-Zawahiri's influence on bin Laden has been profound, according to a number of people who know both Zawahiri and bin Laden, he's influenced his thinking to become more radical, more anti-American, and also more violent.

BOETTCHER: When a journalist at the press conference asked al- Zawahiri about reports that the Americans might try to take action against him, and bin Laden, he said, "we are ready."

AL-ZAWAHIRI: Being Muslims, you are wanted everywhere, because if you just if you say no to the superpower, this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) crime you are wanted for.

BOETTCHER: And soon al-Zawahiri would become a wanted man. A few weeks later, in early August, "Al-Hayat" newspaper in Cairo received a fax from Al-Jihad that contained a veiled threat against America. Days later, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked by suicide bombers driving trucks. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden would both be indicted, charged with masterminding those attacks.

BERGEN: The relationship between Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda is essentially that they're the same organization. They've cooperated for many, many years. The U.S. government says they effectively merged in '98, but really they merged long before that.

BOETTCHER: Right before the U.S. struck back with cruise missile attacks on al-Qaeda training camps, al-Zawahiri called a Pakistani journalist, denied that bin Laden was behind the attacks, but warned of more to come.

"Al-Hayat's" Mohammed Salah says it is important to understand Ayman al-Zawahiri's mind-set, which Salah believes was shaped by the Afghan struggle.

SALAH (through translator): For the most part, he does what he believes in. For example, we consider that the bombing of embassies is a terrorist act, against the religion and simply against nature. He considers that this act serves the goals he's after.

BOETTCHER: To Ayman al-Zawahiri's uncle, this is an inconceivable view of his nephew. He remembers him as someone dedicated to saving lives, not taking them.

AZZAM: This is a false accusation. I say to you, he's a genius doctor. That means that what he knows is to practice as a doctor.

BOETTCHER: In 1999, Egypt put a number of Al-Jihad members on trial. Ayman al-Zawahiri and one of his brothers, Mohammed, were tried in absentia and given the death penalty.

They remained in Afghanistan, where Mohammed Salah says Ayman al- Zawahiri's expertise remained crucial to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

SALAH (through translator): Osama bin Laden wasn't an organized man, meaning he didn't have an organization. He hasn't practiced secret operations in his country. He didn't create a network, or participate in weapons training, or recruiting individuals. This kind of operation and experience Ayman al-Zawahiri had since he was 16.

BOETTCHER: Since September 11, Ayman al-Zawahiri has raised his public profile, appearing twice in videos obtained by Arabic television station Al-Jazeera. This one was released just as the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began in October of 2001.


AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): Oh, American people, you must ask yourselves, why all this hate against America.


BOETTCHER: The U.S. government believes al-Zawahiri was a key player in the attacks, helping plan and oversee the operation. As well as the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole. And al-Zawahiri, like bin Laden, has become more open about claiming credit for 9/11, even as they themselves are being hunted by coalition forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.


AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): God willing, we will continue targeting the keys of the American economy.


BOETTCHER: Before this tape that surfaced, there had been periodic rumors of al-Zawahiri's death and of al-Zawahiri sightings. A funeral notice for his wife and children had been placed in an Egyptian newspaper, saying they had been killed in Afghanistan.

This tape, which makes reference to Iraq, offered proof that he was still alive and threatening future attacks against America and its allies.


AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): We have sent some messages to America's allies to stop their involvement with its crusade. The young mujahideen has sent a message to France, and another to Germany. If the dose is not enough, we are ready with God's help to increase us.


BOETTCHER: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are now actively being hunted by coalition forces.

(on camera): Those who have studied Ayman al-Zawahiri warn not to underestimate him, especially after the bombings of the American embassies in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, and the events on September 11.

SALAH (through translator): Probably they are working on a hit that we don't know of. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, or after three years.


AL-ZAWAHIRI: We want to speak to the whole world.


BOETTCHER: It has been almost two decades since Ayman al- Zawahiri said he wanted the whole world to hear his message. Now, it seems, the whole world is listening.


ZAHN: Despite progress in the war on terror, global officials just this week said al Qaeda remains a pervasive and serious worldwide threat.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, a change of pace with a pair of pop icons, Shania Twain and Madonna. New music and some fresh controversy. I'm Paula Zahn. Again, thanks so much for joining us.


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