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I only include this page so that we all will know the faces and names of the cowards.


Osama Bin Laden

Bin Laden Speaks: Exclusive 1999 TIME interview
Profile: Who is Osama Bin Laden?

Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2001
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
He is a Saudi financier who recruited and led Arab volunteers for the 'jihad' against the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan. Since that war, he has sent his "Arab Afghans" to fight in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and other conflicts involving Muslims. But he also declared a 'jihad' against the United States, declaring it the duty of all Muslims to kill American soldiers and civilians. Bin Laden, of course, has no religous standing, and his religious rationalization of terrorism is fiercely rejected by mainstream Islam. The fugitive Saudi has been accused of authoring a number of attacks on Americans, most notably the 1998 embassy bombings in east Africa. He's also a prime suspect in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.
What does Bin Laden Want?
Bin Laden believes Muslim countries should be ruled according to Islamic sharia law, thus pitting him against the pro-Western regimes all over the Middle East. U.S. support for these regimes and for Israel, as well as the presence of "infidel" American forces in Saudi Arabia are the reasons he offers for his 'jihad' against the U.S. Bin Laden wants to drive the U.S. out of Arab lands, overthrow the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and destroy Israel.
Who are Bin Laden's operatives and how does his network function?
Bin Laden's own organization, Al Qaida, is based primarily on Arab volunteers who had fought the Russians in Afghanistan with the support of the CIA and Arab intelligence agencies, and were either unwilling or unable to return home. They maintained training camps in Afghanistan, the Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere, where they trained fighters for Islamist armies as far afield as Chechnya and western China. Many of these operatives were also trained and deployed to create the infrastructure for and execute terrorist actions against targets associated with the U.S. all over the world.
The Afghan 'jihad' also established links between volunteers from Islamist opposition groups in countries ranging from Algeria to South Africa and the Philippines, and Bin Laden has moved together with key leaders of Egypt's influential Islamist movement to establish himself at the center of a kind of Islamist International. Their goal has been to link organizations spawned by local grievances all around the world into a global 'jihad' against the U.S. and to foster cooperation among these groups.
Security experts believe Bin Laden's networks are not tightly or vertically linked. Instead, any number of smaller cells and loosely affiliated organizations receive support from and carry out operations on behalf of the Saudi financier and his immediate lieutenants.
Where are they based?
Bin Laden remains holed up in Afghanistan, where he enjoys the protection of its ruling Taliban militia. But structures linked with Bin Laden have been identified in Yemen, Bosnia, the Philippines, even New Jersey pockets of support have been unearthed in most places where foreign veterans of the Afghan war are to be found. Earlier this year, a New York court convicted a former Egyptian army major of doing intelligence work for Bin Laden's networks Ali Mohammed had also been a sergeant in the U.S. Army. And the Algerians arrested last December for allegedly smuggling explosives into the U.S. are suspected of working with Bin Laden, even though they had been linked with Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front a group that has not traditionally targeted the U.S. That suggests a growing tendency towards cooperation between distinct local groups, which considerably widens the base of potential threats against the U.S.
How do Bin Laden's networks differ from other terrorist groupings in the Middle East?
Before the Bin Laden group emerged, terrorist organizations in the Mideast depended on states to sponsor their activities. The notorious PLO dissident Abu Nidal, for example, might carry out attacks on behalf of Syria, Libya or other sponsors, as would the notorious Venezuelan "Carlos the Jackal," currently in prison in France. Similarly, the Lebanese Hezbollah militia has depended on backing from Iran and a nod and a wink from Syria. Hezbollah, of course, has primarily waged a guerrilla war against Israel in southern Lebanon, but it has also been a suspect in terrorist attacks both inside Lebanon and abroad. But unlike Bin Laden's group and the equally cosmopolitan Abu Nidal Hezbollah tends to remain focus on home ground, and on lending its support and expertise to Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza.
The most notorious Palestinian terrorist group of the past decade has been Hamas, which has killed scores of Israeli civilians in suicide bombing attacks inside Israel. Based in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas opposes Yasser Arafat and the peace process, but it is not known to have mounted attacks outside of Israel and the Palestinian territories. Thus far, Israeli security officials believe that despite their animosity to the Jewish State, Osama Bin Laden's forces have not for the most part directly targeted Israel.

Each year the state department releases a list of terrorist organizations. Many have ties to one another and to states that back terror. But the connections are hard to trace. Intelligence sources, for instance, tell TIME there's some evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. But the reports are unconfirmed. Below is the most recent State Department list. A group like the I.R.A. does not appear because it does not threaten the security of American citizens or the national security of the U.S.

Complete List of Terrorist Organizations

courtesy of Time Magazine, Click here for more info


Ayman Al-Zawahiri:
Attention turns to the other prime suspect

By JIR contributor Ed Blanche

Osama bin Laden is not the only target of George W Bushs war on global terrorism. The Saudi renegades reputed deputy, Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, a lifelong Egyptian radical who many believe is the real brains behind the loose-knit network of Islamic militants, is also a prime suspect. It may be that the USA would find it prudent to go after al-Zawahiri first if it wants to eliminate the enemy it has identified. Indeed, the genesis of what the USA thinks it is coming to grips with may well lie more in Egypt than in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Zawahiri, now 50, was indicted along with Bin Laden by a federal grand jury in New York in 1999 for the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es Salaam in August 1998 and has been named as a prime suspect in the 11 September suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

On 25 September, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for him at the request of the Egyptian police, saying he was considered to have masterminded several terrorist operations in Egypt as well as the 19 November 1995 suicide bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, in which 17 people were killed. Al-Zawahiri was sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian military court that year for his activities with al-Jihad, one of the deadliest of Egypts Islamic organisations.

While Bin Laden has the charisma and the funds that built the Al-Qaeda (The Base) network of Islamic fundamentalists, mainly from the men who followed him during the fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, al-Zawahiri is widely seen by counterterrorism and Islamic specialists as the intellect and ideological driving force behind the organisation.

According to Arab analysts, al-Zawahiri was instrumental in forging the coalition of al-Jihad (or the wing of it he now controls after its fragmentation by Egyptian security authorities several years ago), Bin Ladens forces, two Pakistani groups and another from Bangladesh in February 1998 with the purpose of waging war on the USA. The hundreds of al-Jihad members estimates range as high as 1,000, about one-third of Bin Ladens force in Afghanistan with al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan formed a hard core of seasoned militants around which the coalition, the International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders, has been built.

Mohammed Atta, the 33-year-old Hamburg-educated architect who the USA believes was at the controls of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 when it was the first to punch into the World Trade Center on 11 September, was one of at least two of the 19 hijackers who struck on that day believed to have been members of al-Jihad.

The Egyptian influence is extensive. Sobhi al-Sitta, an Egyptian Islamist also known as Abu Hafas al-Masri, is the commander of the fronts military arm known as the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Sites, which claimed responsibility for the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. He succeeded another Egyptian, Ali al-Rashidi, who drowned in Lake Victoria, Uganda, in 1995 two years after he had been dispatched to Africa to recruit for Bin Laden. It was the cadres he organised there who carried out the bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es Salaam. One of al-Sittas daughters married Bin Ladens son Mohammed in January 2001. A videotape of the celebrations in Kandahar, broadcast by Qatars Al-Jazeera satellite television station, showed Bin Laden sitting with al-Sitta and al-Zawahiri. "Al-Zawahiris experience is much wider than even Bin Ladens," according to Diaa Rashwan, a leading expert on Islamic militants in Egypt. "His name has come up in virtually every case involving Muslim groups since the 1970s. Hes the chief ideologue in the Bin Laden group. Both he and Bin Laden have combat experience, but its Ayman who has the intellectual edge."

Al-Zawahiri has been a central figure in the conflict waged by Islamic zealots in Egypt since the 1970s, fighting alongside the main Islamic group, al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, with the aim of establishing an Islamic state.

Indeed, al-Zawahiri has been active since 1966, when as a boy of 15, he was arrested for membership of al-Ilkwan al-Muslimun, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic movement, committed to purging Egyptian society of foreign influences, particularly the British, was founded in 1928 by Egyptian schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna. Later outlawed, it became the catalyst for most of the militant Muslim organisations that sprang up across the Arab world.

Al-Zawahiri was born on 9 June 1951 in Cairo. His father, a pharmacology professor at Cairo Universitys medical school, died in 1995. Ayman graduated from the same school in 1974 and later obtained a masters degree in surgery. His paternal grandfather, Rabiaa al-Zawahiri, was the Grand Imam at the al-Azhar institute, the highest religious authority for the Sunni branch of Islam and mainstream Islams paramount seat of learning, early in the last century. His great-uncle, Abdel-Rahman Azzam, was the first secretary-general of the Arab League.

Al-Zawahiri wrote several books on Islamic movements, the best known of which is The Bitter Harvest, a critical assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood. He worked as a paediatrician, but abandoned his practice to follow a path of violent opposition to the secular Cairo government and by the late 1970s he had taken over Islamic Jihad. On 6 October 1981, al-Jihad activists, disguised as soldiers, assassinated President Anwar Sadat at a military parade outside Cairo to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Ramadan War against Israel. Sadat was murdered because he had made peace with Israel in 1979.

Al-Zawahiri was arrested along with hundreds of other Islamic militants in a nationwide dragnet. The authorities were unable to prove he was directly involved in the assassination plot, but he was sentenced to three years imprisonment for possessing weapons. He was released in 1984 and two years later left Egypt, going first to Saudi Arabia, travelling from there to Peshawar, Pakistan, the gateway for Islamic militants who poured into Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviets after they invaded in December 1979.

The Egyptian government, whose insistence for many years that Islamic terrorism had become global fell on deaf ears, informed Western intelligence services several years ago that al-Zawahiri travelled with French and Swiss passports in the name of Amin Othman. He is also understood to have a Dutch passport in the name of Sami Mahmoud el-Hifnawi in the early 1990s when he apparently travelled extensively in Western Europe, living at various times in Switzerland and Denmark. Al- Jihad members testified during the 1999 trial in Egypt that he had entered the USA in 1995 using the alias Dr Abdel Moez and while there raised funds used to finance the attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. According to Londons Guardian newspaper, the US House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on immigration was told by a counterterrorism expert in January 2000 that al-Zawahiri was one of several Islamic militants who had been granted green card status by the US Immigration Service. Al-Zawahiri seems to have had vastly more experience in clandestine operations than Bin Laden.

Ahmed Salama Mabruk, a senior al-Jihad figure among the 107 (63 in absentia) on trial for using terrorism to undermine state institutions, said at that time that al-Zawahiri was in Afghanistan, but had been missing for six months after being arrested by the Taliban. "I am convinced that al-Zawahiri was abducted by the Central Intelligence Agency," he said. Although the CIA would have dearly loved to have got their hands on the Egyptian fugitive, he was in fact residing with Bin Laden at the Tora Bora military base in eastern Afghanistan.

According to Arab analysts, al-Zawahiri, after re-establishing al-Jihad in Afghanistan from where he controlled its activities in Egypt by cadres of Arab Afghans (Arabs who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan), decided to widen its operational horizons to target the USA and move the focus of the Islamists war against the Cairo government away from domestic attacks into the international arena. Evidence of this strategy includes a car bombing in Croatia in September 1995 after prominent Egyptian Islamic activist Taalat Qassem was arrested there and, according to Egyptian dissidents, shipped back to Cairo; the assassination in Geneva in November 1995 of an Egyptian diplomat believed to be an intelligence officer tasked with hunting down Islamic militants; and the bombing of the embassy in Islamabad, a key base for Egyptian intelligence operations against people like al-Zawahiri.

Whether it was al-Zawahiri who influenced Bin Laden in February 1998 when the Islamic alliance was formed in Afghanistan, or the other way round, is a matter of conjecture. But from their union grew an apocalyptic vision that in many ways resonates more of al-Zawahiris modus vivendi than Bin Ladens. Other al-Jihad leaders disagreed with al-Zawahiris alliance with Bin Laden, fearing it would incur the wrath of the worlds superpower as indeed now seems to be case. They broke away from al-Zawahiri, although they and elements of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya remain in Afghanistan.

After the Americans unleashed 70 or more Tomahawk cruise missiles against Bin Ladens camps following the East Africa bombings, al-Zawahiri telephoned a Pakistani reporter and declared: "The war has started. The Americans should wait for an answer Tell the Americans that we are not afraid of the bombardment, threats and acts of aggression. We suffered and survived Soviet bombings for 10 years in Afghanistan, and we are ready for more sacrifice."

Inside Al-Qaeda: a window into the world of militant Islam and the Afghani alumni

By Richard Engel, Cairo and Amman

28 September 2001

The breeding grounds of militant Islamic terrorism span a host of different environments from the Afghan battlefields of the 1980s to places much closer to home. Richard Engel charts the careers of some of Bin Laden's converts and co-conspirators, offering an insight into Al-Qaeda's inner workings.

Sitting on a rooftop in a poor Cairo neighbourhood, 38-year-old Ibrahim recalled when he first met Osama bin Laden. It was 1983 and Ibrahim was one of the leaders of the Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group), one of Egypt's two main Islamic militant organizations centred largely in southern Egypt around the town of Assiout.

"I was one of the emirs (commanders) of the Gamaa Islamiya in southern Egypt at the time in Assiout. I was at the university of Assiout, the heart of the Islamic activism," said Ibrahim, who asked not to be further identified. Ibrahim had spent several months at one of Bin Laden's guerrilla training camps in Sudan learning how to use Kalashnikov assault rifles and other light weapons.

Now that his training was complete, it was time for Ibrahim to meet his benefactor, Bin Laden. He travelled to the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, with a group of Islamic activists, most of them fellow university students.

"We met Osama ibn bin Laden on an Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia," said Ibrahim, using the traditional Islamic form of the Saudi exile's name. "He was a devoted young man who, like any young man, loved his religion. Then he changed and wanted there to be Islamic movements all over the world, and he fled Saudi Arabia and they stripped him of his citizenship." In a rare move, the Saudi government revoked Bin Laden's nationality in April 1994, despite the prominence of his wealthy family. His family, originally from the southern Yemeni province of Hadhramaut, also publicly disavowed him.

Ibrahim says he remembers bin Laden as both polite and well educated. Bin Laden talked a lot, Ibrahim says, and although he was prosperous, he dressed humbly and kept the company of people with no money.

"Osama bin Laden would help any Islamic group, in Sudan, in any Arab country. God blessed him with money, so he gave to Islamic groups," said Ibrahim.

As Ibrahim and the other students were leaving Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden gave him a bag stuffed with Egyptian currency. Ibrahim would not say how much, but it was clear that the idea was to use it to try to make Egypt an Islamic regime. He wanted to set up a military camp in the hills near Assiout, Ibrahim says. That's when Ibrahim lost his nerve.

"I saw my friends being arrested and being tortured and I didn't want to end up like them. So I made a plea bargain with the police and turned the money over to them," he said. Ibrahim served only one year in prison for his activities with the Gamaa Islamiya. He continues to be monitored by the Egyptian security authorities.

Ibrahim's story is typical of how Bin Laden has tried to align with local militant groups with country-specific grievances to increase his reach and influence. Bin Laden's methods and connections with local militant cells have expanded and become more sophisticated over the years, as exemplified by the case of confessed Jordanian militant Raed Hijazi.

Thirty-two-year-old Hijazi, a former Boston taxi driver and a US citizen, is on trial in Jordan for plotting to blow up a fully booked, 400-room Jordanian hotel and two Christian tourist sites on the border with Israel on the eve of the millennium in December 1999. He faces the death penalty and prosecutors say the Jordanian militant cell Hijazi helped create worked in co-ordination with bin Laden. Hijazi and other members of the Jordan militant group have confessed to many of the prosecution's accusations, but Hijazi's lawyers say he gave information under torture.

Speaking outside the state security court in Amman where Hijazi is being re-tried - he was already sentenced to death in absentia - his father Mohammed says his son is innocent. "No, he has no relation with Bin Laden at all. First of all he is poor. He has no funds. He lives on very little money and his apartment is a very little apartment near Amman. If you belong to Bin Laden you have to have some money," said Mohammed, an engineer of Palestinian origin.

Born in San Jose, California, to relative privilege, Raed Hijazi grew up travelling between the United States, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In 1986, he enrolled in California State University in Sacramento to study business administration, according to his father. Prosecutors say it was in the United States that he got his first taste of radical Islamic teaching.

A Fijian cleric at a Muslim prayer group near the university convinced Hijazi to travel to Afghanistan to join the mujahideen (Islamic fighters), who had been battling the Soviet Union since 1979. In addition to learning to use mortars and small arms in Afghanistan, Hijazi also formed alliances he would later allegedly use to build his own Jordanian terror cell, according to prosecutors. Hijazi was especially adept with mortars and earned the noms de guerre 'Abu Ahmed the Mortarman' and 'Abu Ahmed the American'. After the beleaguered Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan following a decade of fighting, many mujahideen became convinced that a force of devoted Muslim believers could defeat any army, even one belonging to a superpower like the Soviet Union. Some mujahideen made it their goal to bring their holy war from the mountains of Afghanistan to their home countries.

The Afghan alumni

While not all saw combat, some 5,000 Saudis, 3,000 Yemenis, 2,800 Algerians, 2,000 Egyptians, 400 Tunisians, 350 Iraqis, 200 Libyans and dozens of Jordanians served alongside the Afghani mujahideen in the war. Between 1,000 and 1,500 of them returned to Algeria and formed the backbone of the Islamic radicals who are continuing to fight against the government in what has been a nine-year civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives. Those who returned to Egypt became valued members of the Gamaa Islamiya and the Gihad group, but their success was severely limited by arrest campaigns and several mass trials in the 1990s under the title of 'the returnees from Afghanistan'. Some Egyptians, who saw that they would be imprisoned if they returned home, remained in Afghanistan or took refuge wherever they could. US authorities have said that as many as 200 Afghan alumni settled in the New York/New Jersey area, some of them congregating around the New Jersey mosque where Omar Abdel Rahman preached.

Largely at the request of Egypt and Algeria, Pakistan has cracked down on its Afghan veterans. Some so-called 'Afghani Arabs' also headed to Asia and joined up in the Philippines with the Abu Sayyaf group - named for a famous Afghan mujahid. Other Afghani Arabs continued to fight the Russians in Tajikistan while still others continued to participate in other conflicts where Muslims were involved, mainly participating in the wars in Bosnia and Chechnya.

Raed Hijazi was one of the Jordanian Afghan returnees who wanted to bring his battle home, according to the prosecution. In 1996, Hijazi met Hader Abu Hoshar, a fellow Afghan veteran who was also of Palestinian origin. Abu Hoshar was a longtime enemy of Jordan and, according to statements given to the court, it was during this meeting at a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria that the plot to carryout a massive attack against foreigners in Jordan was born.

After the plot was set, Hijazi moved back to the United States and worked for the Boston Cab Company. According to prosecutors, he used the job to send some $13,000 to his growing Jordanian terror cell. The group also raised money by selling false documents.

US federal investigators are currently examining a possible link between Hijazi and two of the suspected hijackers who boarded planes in Boston on 11 September and hijacked them for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Investigations say Hijazi is linked to suspects Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam al-Suqami. If proven, it would be a concrete link between the attacks against the United States and Bin Laden.

Jordanian court officials say Hijazi's cell contacted bin Laden's group Al-Qaeda ('The Base') in 1998, asking for help in explosives training. Through a key Al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Zubayida, Bin Laden's group arranged for four people, including Hijazi, to travel through Turkey to a training camp in Afghanistan. Hijazi, prosecutors say, learned to use explosives and remote-controlled triggering devices there.

Abu Zubayida is one of the men Washington has listed as wanted after the terror attacks in New York and Washington. He is believed to function as Al-Qaeda's foreign minister, setting up connections and maintaining relations with Islamic militant cells around the world.

By December 1999, Hijazi's Jordanian cell - now in co-operation with Al-Qaeda, which helped approve targets and coordinate timing - had stockpiled enough nitric and sulphuric acid to make a bomb equivalent to 16-tons of TNT. Jordanian police, who foiled the millennium attack, found the chemicals stockpiled in plastic barrels in a pit dug underneath a house outside of Jordan. A Jordanian intelligence official testifying against Hijazi said that authorities only learned by accident of the terror plot just weeks before it was set to take place.

Western diplomats have said the failed Jordanian plot is a blueprint of how Bin Laden currently operates, using a loosely tied network of local militant groups that operate with his blessing and support, but which cannot be easily traced directly back to him. It is also this loose structure that makes it so difficult for intelligence and police agencies to disrupt the network.

A former Egyptian militant interviewed described the structure of radical Islamic groups as having been modelled after "a bunch of grapes". "Each group operates independently with its members not knowing who the others are. That way, if one member of the group is plucked off by police, the others remain unaffected," he said.

Major players

While there were many heroes and martyrs in the Afghan war, which was supported by US intelligence as part of its battle against communism, many of the mujahideen rallied around three main people: charismatic Saudi financier Osama bin Laden, blind cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and intelligent technocrat Dr Ayman al-Zawahari.

Egyptian-born Sheih Omar Abdel Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in a Minnesota prison after being convicted of conspiring with a group of his followers to destroy the World Trade Center and New York City bridges and tunnels in 1993.

Abdel Rahman's son, Abdullah, says there are both similarities and differences between Bin Laden and his father, the blind imam of Muslim guerrillas. "Sheikh Omar and Osama bin Laden are both Muslims and involved in the Afghani cause and followed the path of the mujahideen in Afghanistan," said Abdullah, who is studying like his father at Cairo's al-Azhar university, the world's oldest centre of Muslim teaching. "Osama bin Laden also donated much of his money to the Afghani cause. The differences between the two are in the level of religious study. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman is a man who all of his life was dedicated to Islamic study. He was a graduate of al-Azhar University and also holds a doctorate, which he received with highest honours in Koranic studies. He is an Islamic cleric able to issue fatwas (Islamic rulings) saying what is a sin and what is a blessing. On the other hand, Osama bin Laden's education was in engineering and he is a military person with expertise in military training," said Abdullah.

Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman continues to be revered by radical Muslims around the world who view him as their spiritual leader. Both Bin Laden and al-Zawahari, who is now his deputy, have vowed to take revenge against the United States if Abdel Rahman, a diabetic, dies while in a US jail.

Ayman al-Zawahari, 50, has more experience in radical Islamic politics than even Bin Laden. Interpol has listed al-Zawahari among its most wanted men. He is described by Western officials as Bin Laden's right-hand man and heir apparent to his organisation. Hailing from a long line of prominent politicians, doctors and religious leaders, his full name is Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahari, although he has used the code names Abu Mohammed and Abu Fatima.

A surgeon, al-Zawahari has been described as a private, intelligent and vindictive person. "He was first arrested in 1966 when he was just 15 years old for belonging to the then-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest radical Islamic group. During the 1970s, al-Zawahari remained involved with militant Islamic organisations and emerged as a leader of Egypt's Gihad group, which, in conjunction with the Gamaa Islamiya, carried out the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

After Sadat's murder, al-Zawahari was arrested, but police were never able to tie him directly to the assassination. Instead, al-Zawahari was sentenced to three years in prison on a weapons charge. A former friend suggests that al-Zawahari was set up by an enemy who threw an assault rifle into the garden of his family's villa in the affluent Maadi district of Cairo. It was during his incarceration, says the friend, that al-Zawahari snapped, the torture he was subjected to in prison sending him over the edge.

After his release from prison in 1984, al-Zawahari left Egypt for good. Mamoun Hodeibi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, says many members of his organisation went to Afghanistan. "Some of them went there to be doctors. Others worked for charities and Islamic societies," said Hodeibi at the Muslim Brotherhood's Cairo office.

Al-Zawahari was one of these and supported the mujahideen's medical personnel. After the war, al-Zawahari moved to Europe, residing in Switzerland and Denmark, according to Egyptian security officials. Al-Zawahri supposedly carries Egyptian, French, Swiss and Dutch passports, although Switzerland denies he was ever issued a Swiss passport. Egyptian officials say his French and Swiss passports are under the name Amin Othman and that his Dutch passport, number 513116, is in the name Sami Mahmoud.

By the 1990s, al-Zawahari had emerged as the leader of the military wing of the Egyptian Gihad group, known as the Vanguards of Conquest. In the mid-1990s, he returned to Afghanistan to join forces with Bin Laden: a move that caused a rift in his Gihad group.

Diaa Rashwan, a senior researcher of Islamic militant groups at Egypt's al-Ahram centre for strategic studies, says al-Zawahari and Bin Laden have become very close since the announcement in 1998 of the formation of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. Other key members of the front are Egyptians Mustafa Hamza, 43, and Rifie Ahmed Taha, 47, aa well as Mohammed Islambouli, 46, the brother of Khaled Islambouli, Sadat's assassin. Egyptian intelligence officials say Mohammed Islambouli holds two Egyptian passports, a Qatari passport and an Algerian passport in the name Mahmoud Youssef.

"Ayman al-Zawahari from the beginning was as all the other ordinary Islamists," said Rashwan. "He had his own project to establish an Islamic state here in Egypt, but over the last three years, he has gone closer to the Osama bin Laden theory. It means to fight the enemies of Islam, the Americans and Israelis, but not to build an Islamic state."

Until two weeks ago, rhetoric from men like Ayman al-Zawahari about fighting the enemies of Islam wasn't taken as seriously as it is today. Now, Washington is presumably re-examining statements from al-Zawahari that it may previously have considered bluster. Two years ago, for example, his Gihad group said it had chemical and biological weapons that it intended to use against the United States and Israel.

Defining the terrorists

In 1998, the 22-member Arab League gave its approval to a pan-Arab counter-terrorism treaty. Since then, the nations have in varying degrees been co-operating to extradite and crack down on militants in the Middle East. The Arab pact requires countries to deny support to groups that launch attacks on other nations in the region, share intelligence and extradite suspects. Extraditions between Arab states, which have been frequent but rarely made public, operate according to bilateral treaties: a condition that has been problematic because extradition accords do not exist between all of the Arab League's member nations. Opponents of the treaty also fear that undemocratic Arab governments could use anti-terrorism legislation to target political dissidents.

Since the 11 September attacks against the United States, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has renewed a call he has consistently made since the late 1990s to hold an international conference against terrorism. While the conference may be vital to close loopholes that allow militant groups to operate in Europe and the United States under the guise of human rights organisations or charities, the overall effectiveness of such a global conference is questionable.

As evidenced from statements made at the Arab League's interior and justice ministers' meetings that established the Arab wide anti-terrorism treaty, there is a deep desire in the Arab world for Israel to be sanctioned for what Arab nations consider its 'state terrorism' against the Palestinians. Furthermore, Arab states do not consider groups like the Lebanese Hizbollah or Palestinian Hamas to be terrorist groups, although they are listed as such by the US State Department. Therefore, one of the toughest steps in battling terrorists, like the vast array of Afghani alumni who operate across borders, may be coming to terms with the age-old question of who is a terrorist.