Al Qaeda has appointed Ayman al-Zawahiri as its new leader, replacing the deceased Osama bin Laden. Long bin Laden's right hand man, al-Zawahiri has a deep history with terrorism. His connection to bin Laden goes back more than 30 years, and the two have shaped each other's live permanently.
Al-Zawahiri's ingress into radicalism occurred in his home-nation of Egypt. Following in the footsteps of his philosophical hero, Islamist literary critic Sayyid Qutb, al-Zawahiri joined a militant group deigned to overthrow the Egyptian government, which he believed to be too moderate.
He was eventually tried for his suspected involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. He was acquitted of the major charges, but served a three year sentence for illegal arms possession.
He fled from Egypt in 1985, moving to Pakistan to work as a field physician in the war between Russia and Afghanistan. It was there that he met Osama bin Laden.
The two began their partnership in Peshawar. Bin Laden used his vast family fortune to fund al-Zawahiri's terrorist inclinations. Meanwhile, al-Zawahiri molded bin Laden's religious and political thoughts to the extreme.
The first record of a combined insurgent effort between the two men occurred in 1998, when both bin Laden's Al Qaeda and al-Zawahiri's radical group Egyptian Islamic Jihad were linked to the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
In 2001, al-Zawahiri merged his group into al Qaeda, and assumed the second-in-command role. But many believe that their relationship was more mutual then how it appeared in public. Al-Zawahiri is thought to have more militant experience and insight than bin Laden, who was the financial leader and face of the organization.
In fact, many counter-terrorism analysts consider al-Zawahiri to be the real mastermind behind the September 11th attacks.
Zawahiri has a different kind of experience, Pakistani journalist Mr. Mir told the Christian Science Monitor in 2001. He is not interested in fighting in the mountains. He is thinking more internationally, involved in militancy inside Egypt. He was behind the terrorist attacks on tourists [the 1997 attack in Luxor left 58 dead]. He is the person who can do the things that happened on Sept. 11.
Al-Zawahiri's experience is much broader than even Bin Laden's, said Egyptian expert Dia'a Rashwan in September, 2001.
Since bin Laden's death, al-Zawahiri has been elevated to the FBI's number one most wanted person. A reward for his capture is set at $25 million.