The Web      Powered by


Return to Transcripts main page


People In The News: Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Aired September 11, 2004 - 17:00   ET


KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS is next. First here's what's in the news now. Within the past hour, hurricane Ivan intensified to a category five storm. It is swirling around Jamaica, and is also threatening Cuba and the Cayman Islands. Florida residents are bracing for the possibility of being hit by their third hurricane in a month. Florida Governor Jeb Bush tells residents to prepare for the worst.

JEB BUSH, (R), FLORIDA: We have been asking repeatedly the residents of Florida prepare for this storm. It has been said this is going to be a very powerful storm, and in all likelihood it will hit our state. We don't know exactly where. But this is the time for people in the Panhandle, and the people on the West Coast particularly to make sure that all of their preparations are complete.

WALLACE: CNN Meteorologist Orelon Sidney is tracking hurricane Ivan. She joins us now from the CNN weather center. Orelon, what's the latest?

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the very latest is the new advisory is in from the National Hurricane Center. There's a couple of things going on. I'm just going to kind of dive in this. And s stick with me here, because it may be a little rocky. But this storm system now we expect to continue working to the west-northwest. It's currently moving west-northwest about nine miles an hour. Expected to make its way up toward the western tip of Cuba. And then once it gets here, it's expected to make a little bit of a northward turn.

Notice I keep saying expected. Expected. Expected. I'll show you the forecast track in a moment that has been adjusted a little bit further out to the west. The timing on the turn is going to make all the difference with this storm. It's not going to turn away from the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman is just about in the crosshairs of this storm. The winds are 165 miles an hour. The pressure down to 914 millibars. Camille's pressure at its lowest point at landfall anyway, was 909 millibars.

This is an amazingly dangerous storm, 145 miles now east southeast of Grand Cayman at 18.2 north and 79.3 west. Where is it going to go after it moves through Cuba? Well, that's the question. And another thing is its intensity. If it does decide to make a turn to the north a little faster, it could still impact south Florida. But for now it, looks like the possibility is more westward. We're looking at it heading into the eastern gulf, and then perhaps northward towards Appalachia Bay.

But if it makes a turn later, it could move on into the central Gulf of Mexico. At any rate, we're not going to know landfall even by Tuesday afternoon, because it's still expected to be in the gulf at that time. We're just going to have to see. The influence of this high-pressure system is going to be the big player, I think. Because it's pushing its way now across Florida. Keeping the storm from moving to the north. We've got a new player on the map that may have some influence later in the track. This one is going to be one for the record books. Kelly.

WALLACE: Orelon, we'll be watching. Of course, stay with CNN for updates throughout the evening on hurricane Ivan. More headlines in 30 minutes. Right now, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. He is the world's most wanted man. The mastermind behind the attacks of 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 multi-millionaire, who has 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 is very subdued.

ANNOUNCER: Osama bib Laden's journey to Jihad. Then Osama bin Laden's number two man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is his closest adviser. They have known each other since 1987.

ANNOUNCER: A surgeon from Egypt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a genius doctor.

ANNOUNCER: Accused of plotting and planning violence for decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And first we want to say:

ANNOUNCER: A man who has declared war on American. Public enemy number two. Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Their stories, now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.


It has been three years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, 2001. And since then, a number of al-Qaeda operatives have been captured or killed around the world. But the man on the very top of the list, Osama bin Laden, remains unaccounted for. With a look at the world's most wanted man, here's Jonathan Mann.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 (UNINTELLIGIBLE), God is great. And then signaled his followers that more attacks were on the way.

They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building.

BIN LADEN: So I said to them, be patient.

MANN: Later, the man once code-named The Contractor would talk about the event in cold-blooded fashion. Drawing on his own background in construction and demolition.

BIN LADEN: Due to my experience in the field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas and the plane would melt the iron structure the building, and collapse the area where the planes hit and the floors above it only. This is all that we hoped for.

MANN: The horror of 9/11 was to Osama bin Laden a triumph of planning and engineering. To him and al-Qaeda, a grade victory against an enemy, America, that they had been at war with for years. Osama bin Laden had escalated that war, striking America within his own borders, something he'd been working towards for years.

Osama bin Laden's journey towards Jihad and 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. Mohammad 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 knew him. He also became interested in the family business. Started working in the family business in his late teens. And then eventually started public administration at university.

MANN: 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 had 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 his skills he had learned working in the family business.

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

MANN: 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 found a founded a group called al-Qaeda, the base.

ROHAN GUNARATNA, AUTHOR, "INSIDE AL QAEDA: According to the founding charter of al Qaeda, published in march 1988, when al Qaeda was founded, it states that al Qaeda is the pioneering vanguard of the Islamic movement. It is the spearhead of Islam.

MANN: 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 of 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.



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

DR. SAAD AL FAGLH, SAUDI DISSIDENT: He was actually harassed after giving this advice. And he was put in sort of house arrest. Asked not to leave (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 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.

MANN: 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 more than 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 probably the largest businessman in Sudan. He had literally thousands of people working for him on his farms. Had he banks. He had leather tanneries. He had a very wide range of businesses, including construction, which of course is the family business.

MANN: 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 17 people.

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.

MANN: 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 Acheron (ph) a year later, would kill 24 Americans. And 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 miss participating in.

MANN: Bin Laden was also named in 1995 as an unindicted 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, but the American government and Pakistani intelligence has been reporting isn't true at all.

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

BERGEN: We didn't really know what to expect, because this was his first television interview. But he appeared to be somebody who is very subdued. He didn't raise his voice above a whisper. He is very tall, 6'5". My main impression of him was despite the fact that he was attacking the United States strongly in this interview, was he delivered the whole tirade in a very low-keyed subdued kind of way.

MANN: 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. And in 1997, he claimed this 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.

MANN: 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 fatwa, 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, an end to 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 did, 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 mean carrying the weapon, and to kill those Americans.

MANN: Bin Laden was flanked by his military commander, Mohammed 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, the Soviet Union, forcing it out of Afghanistan. Now they were ready to declare war on America.

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

MANN: Bin Laden hinted that there would more news in the near future. Coming up, the terrifying realization of exactly what that news was.



MANN: Less than 11 weeks after Osama bin Laden issued his declaration of war against America, al-Qaeda made good on its threat. Launching simultaneous suicide bomb attacks on the U.S. Embassies is Kenya, and Tanzania. The date was August 7th, 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, 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.

MANN: 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 of 2000, al Qaeda struck again. A boat packed with explosives rammed the "USS Cole" while arriving at 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 Mohammed 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 set 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 Asian peninsula and in 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.

MANN: But by this time, says Rohan 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 hit by God in one of its softest spots. Its greatest buildings were destroyed, thank God for that. There is America full of fear from its north to its south from it's west to its east. Thank God for that.

MANN: 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 were at siege of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan during late November and early December of 2001. According to one account from a member of al Qaeda, U.S. bombs falling on Tora Bora missed bin Laden by a little more than 200 yards.

And intelligence sources told CNN that bin Laden was injured at Tora Bora, 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 audiotape praising each of the hijackers by name.

A month later on the anniversary of 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 2002, 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 British and Australians and the Bali explosions, the recent Moscow operation, and some dispersed operations here and there, are all reactions and treatment in kind dealt by the zealous sons of Islam in defense of their religion.

MANN: The, on the eve of the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, another videotape showing Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The videotape was accompanied by an audiotape reportedly of bin Laden once again praising the hijackers.

BIN LADEN (through translator): Those who don't agree with killing, then let them step out of the way.

MANN: Also in these latest messages, another familiar theme, repeated warnings 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 then what will dismay you.

MANN: 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: Despite various reports on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts over the last three years, many now believe he is hiding somewhere in the mountainous frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Muslims. We are Muslims. Who believe in their religion.

MANN: How an outspoken Egyptian doctor became Osama bin Laden's second in command. Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri. Next.


WALLACE: Good afternoon. I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues in a moment. First here is what's happening. Hurricane Ivan is strengthening once again. It is now a category five, with sustained winds of 165 miles per hour, and is responsible for seven deaths in Jamaica.

Cuba is bracing for the powerful effects of Ivan. Residents are busy boarding up homes and businesses. The western end of Cuba, including the capital city of Havana is expected to feel Ivan's powerful winds and heavy rains by early Monday.

In the Florida Keys, Governor Jeb Bush ordered an evacuation and declared a state of emergency. The mayor of Key West says nearly all businesses have been boarded up, and many residents are leaving. Forecasters predict the eye of the storm will past west of the keys. CNN Meteorologist Orelon Sidney is busy tracking hurricane Ivan. She joins us now from the CNN weather center. Orelon, what is the latest now?

SIDNEY: Thanks a lot. The latest pressure we have is 914 millibars. That's the pressure that we meteorologists use to determine the strength of a storm. The lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic was in 1988 with hurricane Gilbert. And there are some estimates I've seen different meteorologists discussing that we could get even lower, perhaps come within 20 millibars of that particular point. We'll worry about that later.

The Cayman Islands we've got to worry about now. Winds of 165 miles an hour. The gusts are up to 200 miles an hour. This is an amazingly strong storm, 145 miles east southeast of Grand Cayman, and headed in that direction. Here's the center of the storm now, having just kind of kissed Jamaica, just barely touching the very southern end there. Here is Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac to the north. It looks like the center of that storm is going to come very close to Grand Cayman later tonight and tomorrow morning.

That is extremely bad news for those folks. Again, still a category five. We expect this to happen tomorrow. It's going to continue to the North West northwest and expected turn to the north is expected to occur over the western part of Cuba. I'll continue this on, and explain something to you in a second if that doesn't happen. Winds of 165 miles an hour by 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, across the Isle of Youth in the far western part of Cuba. And there is that northward turn.

Now, if that doesn't happen, the storm may continue on westward into the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn't look at this point like it's going to turn sharply to the right. But you still have to be aware in places like Key West, southeast Florida, that this is still a possibility. We continue on into 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday. It's somewhere in eastern Gulf of Mexico at the current estimate. The good news is the winds are really down to 135, category four, still dangerous gusts at category five, 160 miles an hour.

Inland somewhere perhaps around Apalachicola, but look at the potential here. All the way from out east of Savannah to almost the mouth of the Mississippi River. So there is a big area here of potential. We just can't say where landfall is going to be yet. There is so many things that are factoring in to this. Anyone in the southeastern United States needs to be prepared for the landfall of a major hurricane in the middle of next week. Kelly.

WALLACE: And Orelon, what could cause this storm to either sort of slow down, or go off-track?

SIDNEY: Well, the big thing that's been keeping us kind of going over the summer has been the evolution of the sub tropical high- pressure ridge. It's generally a high pressure that is about here. The high-pressure has actually pushed its way on out here to the Gulf of Mexico. And high-pressure keeps the storm from heading to the north. If that ridge continues to push, then this storm won't be able to make this northward turn. That is probably the critical thing that's associated with the track of the storm at this point. Kelly.

WALLACE: Orelon thanks. Another update on hurricane Ivan at the top of the hour with Fredricka Whitfield. Those now are the lead stories. Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ZAHN: welcome back to people in the news. If Osama bin Laden were to be captured, the reins of al Qaeda would likely be handed over to bin Laden's so-called number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is not the world's most wanted man, but authorities say he is every bit as dangerous. Here again is Jonathan Mann.


MANN: Ayman al-Zawahiri was usually seen at Osama bin Laden's side. His ally, his confidant. Like bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was targeted for his role in the September 11th attacks. He was also indicted for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

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

BERGEN: Like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri came from a privileged background. The al-Zawahiri family lives in a well off suburb of Cairo. One grandfather was a renowned Muslim scholar, the other a diplomat. His father a prominent doctor. There's even an al- Zawahiri street. Malfouz 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.

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

MANN: Ayman al-Zawahiri's political involvement during the reign of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1960s. Al-Zawahiri was a medical student in his teens when he joined al-Jihad, one of the many groups that opposed the regime and favored an Islamic state. 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 his friend, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Kamal Habib was a Muslim activist. Both advocated violence against the Sadat regime.

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

MANN: in October 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic nick 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 were allowed to interview the group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to speak to the whole world. Who are we? Who we are? 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. In its broad feeling and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and ideology and practice.

MANN: 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.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: Such a conspiracy, which was declared by the stupid agent (ph) Anwar Sadat.


MANN: al-Zawahiri also told reporters that the detainees had been tortured.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: They kicked us. They beat us. They whipped us with electric cables. They shocked us with electricity. And they used the wires (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they used -- and they hang us over the edges of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with our hands tied at back.

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

HABIB, (through translator): 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.

MANN: 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.

MANN: 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.

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

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

MANN: Others would call this something else. Not shyness, but a passion for secrecy that would be one of AL-Zawahiri's hallmarks as a leader. When we return, Ayman al-Zawahiri takes up the Afghan cause, and meets the man who would become America's public enemy number one.



MANN: 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.

MANN: 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 these people who run away from your own government. And at the same time, you can make your Jihad.

MANN: Al-Zawahiri not only tended to the wounded, he and 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, (through translator): 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.

MANN: 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, (through translator): 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.

MANN: 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. At home, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, faced with an increasing terrorism from Islamic groups, was waging a brutal counter offensive. Malfouz Azzam says because they were skilled fighters, his nephew and others were considered too dangerous by Arab leaders.

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

MANN: 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 Osama bin Laden. We owe him more than anything. Here in Peshawar. And in Sudan. And many other places.

MANN: 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 returns, Ayman al-Zawahiri remains in the shadows, and declares war on the United States.



MANN: 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.

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.

MANN: 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 al-Zawahiri and bin Laden. His influences, thinking to become more radical, more anti-American, and also more violent.

MANN: 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 a Muslim, you are wanted everywhere, because if you say no to the superpowers, this, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's a crime you are wanted for.

MANN: 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 the same organization. They've cooperated for many, many years. The U.S. government says they effectively emerged in '98, but really they merged long before that.

MANN: 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's 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.

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

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

MANN: 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, but participated in weapons training or recruiting individuals. This kind of operation experience Ayman al-Zawahiri had since he was 16.

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

BIN LADEN (through translator): Oh, American people, you must ask yourselves, why all this hate against America?

MANN: 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,

AL-ZAWAHIRI: God willingly, we will continue targeting the keys of the American economy. MANN: Before this tape had 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 made 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 it.

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

MANN: It has been two decades since Ayman al-Zawahiri said he wanted the whole world to hear his message. A message which was heard loud and clear.


ZAHN: Though there have been some key victories in the war on terror, U.S. officials and counterterrorism experts are convinced that the terror threat to America and its allies remains strong three years after 9/11.

And that is it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, hip-hop music tops the radio charts. And now one of rap's pioneers is back. A look at L.L. Cool Jay. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for being with us. Hope you'll join us again next week.

ANNOUNCER: And for more PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, please pick up a copy of "People" magazine.


On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.