Sources: Bin Laden deputy surrounded by Pakistani forces
Pakistani forces believe they have surrounded Al-Qaeda No. 2, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri in an operation near the Afghan border, three senior Pakistani officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The officials said intelligence indicated al-Zawahiri has been cornered in an operation that started Tuesday in South Waziristan involving hundreds of soldiers and paramilitary rangers.
"We have been receiving intelligence and information from our agents who are working in the tribal areas that al-Zawahiri could be among the people hiding there," said a military official. "All of our efforts are to capture him."
An intelligence official and top politician in President General Pervez Musharraf's government both confirmed the report.
In an interview with CNN, Musharraf said he had spoken with the commander of Pakistani forces in the region. He said the commander reported "fierce resistance" from a group of fighters entrenched in fort-like buildings and that there were indications that a senior figure was surrounded. "He's reasonably sure there's a high-value target there," Musharraf said. According to him, the area was being "pounded" by artillery.
Al-Zawahiri, 53, is the former head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization. In 1998, he merged his group into al-Qaeda and has since been considered a "lieutenant" to Osama bin Laden.
Al-Zawahiri was born to a middle class family in Maadi, Egypt, a suburb of Cairo. By fourteen he had joined the Muslim Brotherhood. By 1979, he had moved on to Islamic Jihad, where he eventually became one of its leading organizers and recruiters. He was one of hundreds arrested following the assassination of Anwar Sadat, but the Egyptian government was unable to prove any connection between al-Zawahiri and the case and he was released.
In the 1980s he journeyed to Afghanistan to participate in the Islamic resistance against the Soviet occupation. There he met Osama bin Laden, who was running a base for Jihad fighters.
In 1990, al-Zawahiri returned to Egypt. Six years later, he was held responsible for the killing of some 60 foreign tourists in the Egyptian town of Luxor, which earned him the death penalty in that country.
In 1998, he issued a joint fatwa with Osama bin Laden under the title "World Islamic Front Against Jews and Crusaders", an important step in broadening their conflicts to a global scale.
Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri's whereabouts have been unknown; press reports in 2002 said he had been killed, but in early September of 2003 a video of al-Zawahiri and bin Laden, as well as an audiotape, was released to al-Jazeera network in Qatar, purporting to prove that both are still alive. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)