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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al- Zawahiri

Aired May 28, 2005 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" starts in a moment, but first, here's what's happening.
Former President Bill Clinton is on a tsunami relief tour. He will visit the Maldives tomorrow. An early report said he had canceled that stop due to exhaustion. Clinton visited Sri Lanka today, where he backed an aid-sharing deal between Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan government. He says he believes that could lead to lasting peace.

The search for a missing 3-year-old Missouri boy is over after he is found alive and safe. Holden Maudlin (ph) and his dog, a black lab, were found early this morning. The boy was reported missing last night.

Rough waters on the Potomac River in the nation's capital turned an annual boat festival and race into a rescue mission. At least 20 boaters had to be plucked out of the chilly water today during a Chinese dragon boat festival. No one was seriously hurt.

Troops on the frontlines can now post their personal stories in cyber space. We'll take a look at mil blogging, coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time. And I'll be back with more headlines in about 30 minutes. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, his life has been a portrait of violence. From growing up as a thug in the streets of Jordan, to becoming the most wanted insurgent in Iraq.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Excuse me, sir, can we talk to you about Abu Musab, your brother-in-law?

ANNOUNCER: An in-depth look at the making of a terrorist, as Nic Robertson hunts for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Then, he's the son of a Saudi multi-millionaire, who used his money and power to form a network of terror that spans the globe. 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.

And later, Osama bin Laden's number-two man, a surgeon from Egypt accused of plotting and planning violence for decades.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: We want to speak to the whole world. Who are we? Who are we?

ANNOUNCER: Public enemy number two, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Now, from the pages of "People" magazine and the network for news, a look at the most fascinating PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi. Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. He is Iraq's most wanted terrorist. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a mastermind behind a reign of terror that has led to numerous brutal and deadly attacks. CNN's Nic Robertson traces al-Zarqawi's terrorist trail, amid a new surge of violence, and varying reports that Iraq's most wanted may have recently been wounded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice over): Iraq, May 2004. American Nick Berg is about to be beheaded, his execution recorded and released on a Web site titled "Abu Musab al- Zarqawi Slaughters an American." Its barbarity rockets Zarqawi from relative obscurity to front-page familiarity.

But already he is the deadliest insurgent in Iraq.

To find out how Zarqawi got to this point, I've come to this jail in Jordan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this prison, in this jail al-Zarqawi became a leader.

ROBERTSON: Journalist Abdula Ruman (ph) knew Zarqawi and is willing to talk. He was locked up with him in the mid-1990s.

(on camera): He was asking his men to march along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They used this square to walk as a close group, a strong group ...

ROBERTSON: Like an army?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And shouting -- like an army, exactly like an army, and shouting.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Politely moved on by Jordanian security, Ruman (ph) tells me to learn more. I should begin where Zarqawi grew up. Born Ahmed Fadil Al-Khalayleh, he later took his nom de guerre, Zarqawi, from the name of his hometown, Zarqa. It looks pretty from a distance. But up close, it's different, crammed by successive waves of Palestinian refugees, one of the poorest towns in the country.

(on camera): With its densely packed housing and intense tribal loyalty, Zarqa has been compared to the Bronx. But others liken its down-at-heel working class neighborhoods to Detroit. For Zarqawi, though, it was a place of limited opportunity.

(voice-over): Outside the house where he was born in October 1966, neighbors say they remember the family well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They were a simple people. They lived a simple life. They barely made it.

ROBERTSON: His father fought against the Israelis in 1948 and was well respected before he died. In this picture at the time, the young Zarqawi looks unremarkable, but seems determined to earn respect like his father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If someone would even harm his neighbors, Zarqawi would always come to defend the victim. He always did good deeds, nothing wrong.

ROBERTSON: His days were spent here, in Zarqa's school. But by all accounts, he didn't excel academically.

(on camera): Zarqawi left school before his final exams, disappointing his parents. He didn't seem to have a career in mind, and his father tried to fix him up with a job at the local municipality.

(voice-over): That was 1982. Zarqawi was about 16, developing a reputation as a tough guy who, against Muslim custom, drank and got a tattoo.

Outside his old mosque, I tracked down his brother-in-law, hoping he can tell me more.

(on camera): Excuse me, sir, can we talk to you to about Abu Musab, your brother-in-law? Is that possible? You know nothing? You don't want to say?

(voice-over): He's not unfriendly, just unwilling to talk.

One man I find who will talk says he knew Zarqawi's father and was imam, or preacher, to both father and son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know him exactly, and the first time when he was a child, he no good.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Was his father angry with his son?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, so angry. Last time he told me there is no good road for me. Only I kill him. ROBERTSON: To kill his son?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To kill his son, yes.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Zarqawi was out of control. No one here can tell me more, but as I am to find out later, he was about to have a life-changing experience.

At that time in 1989, the U.S.-backed mujahideen were on the verge of driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan. Thousands of Arabs, including Osama bin Laden, were in the fight. Zarqawi decided to join them.

In these rare pictures taken soon after he arrived, Zarqawi is seen relaxing, mixing happily with other jihadists, or Muslim holy warriors. He'd arrived as the jihad was ending.

Some reports say Zarqawi never fought the Soviets; others that he was very brave in battle. All accounts agree, though, he befriended this man, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Kuwaiti-born cleric, intent on the violent overthrow of secular Arab governments.

Much of what he did in Afghanistan is unknown. There are conflicting accounts of whether or not he met Osama bin Laden.

General Ali Shukri was a military and intelligence adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and knows Zarqawi's case file.

GEN. ALI SHUKRI, FORMER MILITARY, INTELLIGENCE ADVISER TO JORDAN'S KING HUSSEIN: He decided to join the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He was trained there. He became a bomb expert.

ROBERTSON: Zarqawi left Afghanistan in 1992. He came back to Jordan with new friends, ideas and an agenda.

When we return, Zarqawi's radicalism lands him in prison and sets him on a path to become the most feared insurgent in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ROBERTSON: Zarqawi returned to Jordan in 1992, reuniting with his spiritual mentor, Maqdisi.

SHUKRI: And he started to plan attacks against visitors, tourists coming into Jordan. He managed to create his own unit, if I can call it a unit, or a cell, all the time under the auspices of al Qaeda, but disengaged from al Qaeda.

ROBERTSON: In 1994, Zarqawi was arrested and jailed for possession of explosives and plotting against the Jordanian kingdom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And al-Maqdisi came to Swaqa as a hero. But everybody can note at that time that al-Zarqawi, he is the strongest one.

ROBERTSON: Swaqa jail had a relatively liberal regime. Prisoners could work on the farm, in the work shops, or kitchen. Zarqawi exploited the system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told the officer of the jail, "you can't touch anybody from my group. You can't touch him, because you are infidels and we are believers."

ROBERTSON (on camera): So the prison authorities couldn't control him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Nobody can control him.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It was the same in court.

MOHAMMED AL-DWEIK, ZARQAWI'S FORMER LAWYER (through translator): He used to give orders to his followers with his eyes, meaning "don't talk." Another sign is when he said, "God is great." Then they would repeat it after him. If he prayed, they would do so following him. If he read the Koran, they would read it after him.

ROBERTSON: But what turned Zarqawi, one-time hard man, into this radical Muslim?

Sheikh Esmat (ph), a political dissident who also found God, thinks he knows the answer. He was close to Zarqawi in prison, even wears the white robe Zarqawi gave him to our interview.

According to Esmat (ph), Zarqawi found God before he went to Afghanistan after waking from a drunken stupor and looking for a purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was drink, throw up, and when he wake up, said to himself, "What happened? Why I like this? Why I drink?"

ROBERTSON: He became a devout Muslim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Al-Sait prison, he finishing the Koran.

ROBERTSON (on camera): He finished learning the Koran?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, not learning...

ROBERTSON: Memorizing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Memorizing, yes.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In 1999, he was released, benefiting from the newly enthroned King Abdullah's pardon for all political prisoners.

Returning to his wife and four children in this house in Zarqa, he lacked work, missed his followers and was confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His sister went to him. She knows that he is very sad. She tells him, "remember the vision. God wants you to be a mujahid." It's a dream.

ROBERTSON: He followed her vision and headed back to his jihadi roots in Afghanistan, setting up a training camp in the west of the country, far from bin Laden. Arabs from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, close to his home, came for his specialized classes in bomb-making.

Following the September 11th attacks, Zarqawi's camp was bombed. He fled west. According to U.S. officials, he turned up in a jihadi camp belonging to a group called Ansar Al-Islam, located in Kurdish- controlled northern Iraq.

By late 2002, he was on the attack. Jordanian officials linked Zarqawi to the assassination in Amman of a USAID official Laurence Foley. In 2003, Zarqawi was dubbed the al Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Powell also said he was a Palestinian who'd lost a leg. Both details untrue. But as war in Iraq got closer, Saddam did invite Arab jihadists to Baghdad.

LT. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, FMR. U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE: From the end of 2002 and up through March 2003, Zarqawi was not part of the equation from the intelligence perspective. And I was the senior intelligence guy on the ground.

ROBERTSON: But after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Zarqawi became very much a part of the equation. In August 2003, a suicide bomber destroyed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing a top diplomat and more than 20 others.

MARKS: That is probably the inflection point where we began to realize we're in the midst of an insurgency.

ROBERTSON: Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the U.N. bombing. More bloody attacks in Zarqawi's name followed, targeting not just U.S. troops but Iraqi security forces, and Iraq's majority Shiite population; his Web-posted exploits rapidly propelling him to the most popular insurgent among the newly emerging radical jihadists like himself. He is also the most wanted insurgent, by now worrying about being caught.

In a letter to bin Laden, he sounds worried. "Eyes are everywhere," he says.

Later, and more confident, he calls for bin Laden's blessing, and gets it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear mujahid brother, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq. So we ask all our organization's brethren to listen to him and obey him and his good deeds.

DR. MARC SAGEMAN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Right now, it's a marriage of convenience. There are definitely some major differences between Zarqawi and bin Laden.

ROBERTSON: Former ally Maqdisi and others criticize the brutal beheadings carried out by Zarqawi. Other, less radical allies, doubt he could be killing fellow Muslims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe he do something against the Iraqi armies, but what happened about the Shia and about the others, other peoples, I think it's not true.

SAGEMAN: Zarqawi is very much a part of the new generation, the new leadership of this whole social movement. The new leadership is far more aggressive than the old leadership.

ROBERTSON: Despite U.S. and Iraqi efforts to capture or kill Zarqawi, he remains at large, a powerful magnet for more foreign jihadists to join the deadly insurgency in Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, he's the world's most wanted man, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks.

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

ANNOUNCER: What's behind Osama bin Laden's trail of terror? When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: It's been nearly four years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and since then a number of al Qaeda operatives have been captured or killed all over the world. But the man on the very top of the list, Osama bin Laden, remains unaccounted for. Here's Jonathan Mann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is America's most wanted man, the man behind the 9/11 attacks.

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

MANN: 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'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. Mohammed bin Laden would die in a plane crash when Osama was 10.

BERGEN: As a teenager, bin Laden was religiously quite devout, according to both family members and also people who knew him.

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 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, 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 movements. 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 to the Soviets through the CIA.

Then, in 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 FAGIH, SAUDI DISSIDENT: He thought since then that there is an American-Saudi conspiracy to control the land of Arabia. And that made a surge in his opinion against the U.S.

MANN: 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 probably 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.

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.

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-foot-5. So my main impression of him was that 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-keyed, subdued kind of way.

MANN: 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: 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 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 be more news in the near future.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns in a moment, but first, here's what's happening now in the news.

It's graduation day at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. The class of 2005 entered the academy just weeks before the 9/11 attacks. Ironically, there were exactly 911 graduates today. About 70 percent of the new second lieutenants are expected to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan within one year.

Two bombs ripped through a marketplace on an Indonesian island today. At least 20 people were killed and 53 others wounded. The bombs went off 15 minutes apart. The second explosion was much larger, as people were rushing to the scene to help victims of the first attack.

The health of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd is reportedly improving. The Saudi foreign minister says the king is in stable condition. A hospital official reports the king has water in his lungs, but says his fever is coming down. The 82-year-old monarch was hospitalized yesterday with pneumonia-like symptoms.

A mother whose son fought and died in Afghanistan is now fighting her own battle to join an organization of mothers whose children died in combat. Her story is coming up in our next hour.

More headlines every 30 minutes. Now, back to more PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

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 in 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, 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)

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 it was 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 overshadowed 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.

MANN: But 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 its 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 the 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.

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 the British and Australians in 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: Over the next several years, bin Laden's voice and image would resurface in new video and audio recordings. In these latest messages, a 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.

ANNOUNCER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues...

BERGEN: He's his closest adviser. Has worked with bin Laden for a long time. They've known each other since 1987.

ANNOUNCER: How a radical Islamic voice became Osama bin Laden's second in command. That's next.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MANN (voice-over): 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.

MANN: 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.

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

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

MANN: Ayman al-Zawahiri's political involvement began during the reign of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel 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): We thought at the 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 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.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: 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, as well as an 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.

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

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

AL-ZAWAHIRI: They kicked us. They beat us. They whipped us with the electric cables. They shocked us with electricity. They shocked us with electricity, and they used their -- the wild dogs, and they used their -- the wild dogs, and they hung us over the edges of the door with our hands tied at the 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

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 wage 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 ran away from their own governments. And at the same time, you can make your jihad.

MANN: 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 (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 other Afghan Arabs, to go. At home, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, faced with an increasing amount of terrorism from Islamic groups, was waging a brutal counter-offensive. Mahfouz 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's one of the main five pillars in our Islam is jihad, if a man is practicing his religion, these governments consider him as 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 Brother bin Laden. We know him (INAUDIBLE) here in Afghanistan, (INAUDIBLE) Peshawar, and in 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.

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

MANN: Since September 11th, 2001, 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 2001.

AL-ZAWAHIRI (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 even more open about claiming credit for 9/11.

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

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

Since that message, there have been numerous audio and video recordings from Ayman al-Zawahiri, that have offered proof that he was still alive, and threatening future attacks against America and its allies.

AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): We have sent the messages to America's allies to stop their involvement with its crusade. The young mujahideen have 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, D-Day, a call to courage, from the men who were there.

I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us. Hope you'll be back with us again next week.

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

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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