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Doubts Arise on Border Battle's Tie to Bin Laden Aide

Pakistani troops continue a standoff with al Qaeda fighters and militant rebels near the country's border with Afghanistan. But Pakistanis are reconsidering initial claims that a key al Qaeda figure -- Ayman al-Zawahiri -- is cornered there.

Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian, is said to be Osama bin Laden's second in command and his main ideologue. He's been with bin Laden since the 1980s, when they fought together in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Al-Zawahiri helped found Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Zawahiri, now 52, served three years in prison for his role in that plot, and then left Egypt for Afghanistan.

But he remained the head of Islamic Jihad, which was blamed for an 1995 assassination attempt against President Hosni Mubarak and the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan, as well as the 1997 massacre of foreign tourists in Luxor. Al-Zawahiri was tried in absentia by an Egyptian court and was sentenced to death.

His expertise has helped turn bin Laden's al Qaeda network from a loosely affiliated group of like-minded terrorists into an organized network capable of carrying out extremely violent and carefully planned terrorist operations.

A surgeon by training, al-Zawahiri is also the author of several books on Islamic movements.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
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