CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

Archive for May 2nd, 2011

* DXer: With Bin Laden’s death, it is important to understand Dr. Ayman Zawahiri

Posted by DXer on May 2, 2011



DXer … With Bin Laden’s death, it remains important to walk in the shoes of Dr. Ayman Zawahiri and come to know the man.

Al-Zawahiri’s family has its roots in a small town in Saudi Arabia “where the first battle between Prophet Muhammad and the infidels was fought and won by the Prophet.”  With 9/11 and the anthrax mailings, he essentially is seeking to recreate the taking of Mecca by a small band.  Al-Zawahiri’s great grandfather came to the Nile Delta in the 1860s to a city where there is a mosque that still bears his name. His grandfather on his mother’s side was  president of Cairo University and the Egyptian ambassador to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.  His grandfather was known for being pious and nicknamed “the devout ambassador.”  Two of Ayman’s sisters are on the faculty at Cairo University Medical School.  His sister Heba is a professor of pharmacology who researches antimicrobials.  His uncle was the Dean of Cairo’s medical school at one point.  His father, who passed away in 1995, was Professor of Pharmacy.  Including in-laws, he has 40 doctors of various sorts in his family.

Born June 1, 1951, he grew up in Cairo’s Al-Ma’adi neighborhood.  He graduated cum laude from Cairo University’s medical school in 1974 with an MD degree.   He received a master’s degree in surgery in 1978 and was married the next year to Izzat Ahmad Nuwair who had graduated with a degree in philosophy from Cairo University.  His wife and children were killed in a bombing raid in Afghanistan and an obituary mourning their loss appeared in Cairo.  He has a younger brother Hassan, an engineer, and had an older  brother Muhammad.   Upon the toppling of Mubarak, Dr. Ayman’s brother Muhammad was released only to be re-arrested a few days later.  Without his family, Zawahiri is a fanatic guided only by his faith and his literal interpretation of a book written many years ago that he memorized as a child.

Al Qaeda’s spymaster al-Hakaymah  wrote “The History of the Jihadist Movements in Egypt.”  When asked why Al-Zawahiri started his group,  he explained that Al Zawahiri thought of Sayyid Qutb as a coroner who dissects a body with a high degree of professionalism and talent that suits someone who knows it inside out. In his youth, Zawahiri was influenced by Sayyid Qutb, one of the spiritual leaders of Islamic religious groups.   After a two year stay in the United States where Qutb gained a contempt for American culture, the secular writer Qutb returned to his religious roots and wrote extensively supporting violence against Christians and Jews, and even muslim leaders deemed infidel.  The introduction of Milestones linked at IANA’s Islamway website states: “I have written Milestones for  this vanguard, which I consider to be a waiting reality about to be materialized.” Zawahiri traces the origin of the modern islamist movement to the hanging of Qutb in 1966.   It was Sayyid Qutb’s brother, Muhammad, who supervised the research of the masters thesis of Saudi dissident sheik Safar Al-Hawali.

Ayman and his young colleagues would go to the Al-Kikhya mosque in Abidin area in Cairo and read books from the Salafist library at the mosque, such as books by Ibn Taymiyah, whose religious rulings greatly influenced him.  The group felt ashamed by Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 war with Israel and attributed the defeat to Egypt’s failure to follow Shariah rule.

In 1968, Zawahiri’s group in high school brought together Nabil al-Bura’i, Ismail Tantawi, Sayyid Imam and others.  They were all in the last year of high school in the Cairo suburb of Maadi.  Sayyid Imam, who issued revisions in November 2007, was thought to be more charismatic  than Ayman, who tended to be shy.

Zawahiri later would form a military wing under the guidance of Al-Qamari, an Egyptian army officer.  Zawahiri formed his first cell from students at Maadi High school and other schools.  By 1974, the year he graduated from medical school, it had 40 members.  Ayman deemed infiltrating the military the most effective and least costly means of seizing power.  Known for their extreme secrecy, the group avoided growing beards like most Islamists and were thus known as “the shaven beards.”  Ayman’s friend Kamal Habib, who later would contribute to the  quarterly journal of the Ann Arbor-based Islamic Assembly of North America, explained to CNN through a translator:   “We thought at the time that the goal to apply the laws of Islam can’t be achieved with ways other than violence.” It would remain Zawahiri’s tactic to recruit members of the Egyptian army because of their training and expertise.  After graduating medical school in 1974, he served three years as a surgeon in the Egyptian Army, at a base outside Cairo, before establishing a clinic at the same duplex he shared with his parents. He got his masters in surgery in 1978 based on book learning, according to his mentor Sayyid Imam.  At a Saudi clinic, Sayyid Imam reports that he needed to cover for Ayman’s lack of clinical experience.

During the 1975-1979 period, radical but not revolutionary study groups spread quickly through the Cairo, Ayn Shams and al-Azhar universities and elsewhere.  Al-Jihad began as such a student organization.  The student groups were one of the main targets of Sadat’s crackdown in 1979.  Hundreds were arrested and their campus groups dissolved.  The revolutionary ideas of Qutb influenced these student groups, which were known as jam’iyat.  Courses of study in Egyptian universities  are narrow, preventing many from acquiring a liberal education as they acquired technical skills.  Thus, many fundamentalists are highly educated in technical fields but do not have a broader educational background.  Life as a student in Egypt is hard and job prospects are poor.  In the late 1970s, an estimated 85% of al-Jihad’s members were students.

One co-defendant who said of him:  “While in prison, I used to meet him in court during the trial sessions.  He is a very calm person and polite and has more of a strategic thought than being an intellectual or the owner of jurisprudence interpretations or even a student in search of knowledge.”  Attorney al-Zayyat, who was in prison for three years along with Ayman, had a similar view.  Even back then, Zawahiri placed great weight on the religious authority of the blind sheikh, Abdel-Rahman.

A powerful 5 minute excerpt from the PBS/Frontline, “Looking for Answers”  shows Zawahiri delivering an impassioned speech (in English) from jail.  His statement sheds light on the motive underlying the anthrax mailings (and the reason the two dates of mailing were chosen).  The choice of targets related to US appropriations to Egypt and Israel,  the extradition or “rendering” of Egyptian Islamic Jihad members pursuant to the “Leahy Law,” retaliation for the detention and alleged mistreatment of the Blind Sheikh and others,  and what Ayman views as “lies”  about these issues in the media. The two mailing dates were (1) the signing of the agreement between Egypt and Israel and (2) the assassination of Sadat for signing the agreement.  The choice of mailing dates was not surprising when one realizes that the subject of the December 4, 1998 Presidential Daily Brief to President Clinton was Islambouli, the brother of Sadat’s assassin.  The PDB described the plan to attack the US using aircraft and other means. Islambouli was part of a cell with Khalid Mohammed who not only led the “planes operation,” but would come to lead the effort to attack the US with weaponized anthrax upon Atef’s death in November 2001.

Montasser Al-Zayyat, who in Spring 1999 announced Dr. Ayman’s plan to use anthrax against US targets to retaliate for the rendering of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders,  writes:

“Despite all that he had suffered physically, what was really painful to Zawahiri was that, under the pain of torture, he was forced to testify against his fellow members in the case against ‘Esam al-Qamari and other officers. Zawahiri was taken from the Tora prison to the Higher Military Court to give testimony against other jihadi members from the army.  Under these conditions, he admitted that they formed a movement inside the army to topple the regime and institute an Islamic government.”

After he was arrested on October 15, 1981, Zawahiri informed the authorities of Qamari’s whereabouts. He had taken a refuge in a small mosque where he used to pray and meet Zawahiri and other members of the group. It was this painful memory which was at the root of Zawahiri’s suffering, and which prompted him to leave Egypt for Saudi Arabia. He stayed there until he left for Afghanistan in 1987. During the three years following his arrival in Afghanistan, his leadership among jihadi Islamists became more prominent, as he worked to regroup the disoriented group members.

Zawahiri left Egypt in late 1985 after he filed a lawsuit and obtained a stay of a decision of the minister of interior banning his travel.  He spent a year working at a medical clinic in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.   Al-Zawahiri started the Islamic Jihad Bureau in 1987. He published a monthly magazine called “al-Fath” [conquest].   When Bin Laden’s spiritual leader Azzam was assassinated, al-Zawahiri assumed the role.  In Afghanistan and later Sudan, Zawahiri would control Bin Laden by surrounding him with members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.  As a result, Bin Laden’s financial support flowed to Egyptian Islamic Jihad but not the Egyptian Islamic Group.

Zawahiri opposes democracy because then people could choose their own religion rather than adhere to the religious beliefs he was taught as a young boy before he reached the Age of Reason.  He thinks democracy must be overcome through violence.   He knows best based on words written many years before — words he learned by rote memory.  Although soft-spoken and outwardly calm, he is a fanatic.  The humiliation he felt upon betraying his former mentor al-Qamari still rages within him.  He is not constrained by what most would view as ethical limits.  Beware the quiet, deep thinker who thinks he knows best, particularly after you’ve killed his wife and child.  In Bitter Harvest, he was very critical of the Muslim Brotherhood for its growing accommodation of secular rulers, though he softened his views somewhat in Prophets under the Banner.    Zawahiri’s friend, IANA magazine writer Kamal Habib, says that, in contrast to Zawahiri,  he has renounced violence and embraced democracy as a pragmatic means of establishing sharia law.

In the mid-1990s, Al-Zawahiri sought to coordinate the activities of the various Islamic terrorist movements to carry out sabotage activities against the United States.  A series of meetings included representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah.  In a meeting held in Khartoum in April 1995, one direction Al-Zawahiri charted was to develop the effectiveness of the Islamic networks in London and New York, especially Brooklyn, where he visited the Blind Sheik’s Services Organization.

Zawahiri visited the US  in 1995 and visited mosques with Ali Mohammed and San Jose physician Ali Zaki. Apparently, however, it was the planned visit by a representative from Saudi Arabia sent by Mohammed Islambouli several years later that more recently that may had lay groundwork for the planned attacks using aircraft and other means.  The planned visit was the subject of the CIA’s December 4, 1998 Presidential Daily Brief to President Clinton.

Islambouli, brother of Sadat’s assassin, was in a cell with KSM, who upon Atef’s death assumed leadership of the cell planning to attack the US with weaponized anthrax.  Islambouli was head of the blind sheik’s Services Organization in Peshawar.  In addition to his numerous videotaped messages and his October 2001 book “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” Zawahiri announced in 2007 that Islambouli was head of the Islamic Group members who had joined Al Qaeda.  Islambouli may know the identity of the anthrax mailer even though KSM does not.

George Mason University microbiology grad student Al-Timimi years later would invoke both Sayyid Qutb and Ibn Taymiyah in an eloquent speech upon his indictment for sedition.  Muhammad Qutb spoke alongside GMU microbiology graduate Al-Timimi at the 1993 conference along with the blind sheik’s son Mohammad Abdel-Rahman (from Afghanistan).  Former EIJ member and current Cairo activist Gamal Sultan was also a speaker.  Al-Hawali was Al-Timimi’s religious mentor at university.

A  Dr. “Tawfik” Hamid advises me that while at Cairo Medical School he was recruited by Dr. Ayman.  The first name “Tawfik” is an alias used for security reasons —  but this man has the courage to state the truth and urge nonviolence.

Dr. Hamid met Zawahiri, “Dr. Ayman” as he was known, at an afternoon prayer session.   He was one of the fiercest speakers he had ever heard.  Ayman fervently condemned the West for the freedom of its women.   Dr. Ayman, Dr. Hamid explains, was exceptionally bright, one of the top postgraduate students in the medical school.   When they met him, Zawahiri greeted him warmly through his coke bottle glasses.

Dr. Hamid explains that one of Ayman’s achievements was to personalize jihad—that is, to have transformed it from a responsibility of the Umma, the Islamic collective, to an individual duty of Muslims.   Within several months of meeting Dr. Ayman, he was invited to travel to Afghanistan to join other young Muslims in training for jihad.   It was fairly common, he said, to be recruited after the end of Friday prayers.  Dr. Hamid explains:  “We viewed both the Soviets and the Americans as enemies.”    “The Soviets were considered infidels because they did not believe in the existence of God, while the Americans did not follow Islam. Although we planned to fight the Soviets first, our ultimate objective was to destroy the United States—the greatest symbol of the infidel’s freedom. ”   Dr. Hamid told me that his  brother, CAIR-St. Louis — who had lived in Ann Arbor in 2001 — will not talk to him given his consultation with US  government intelligence agencies.

A childhood friend of the Hamid brothers, Dr. Tarek Hamouda, had been supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins.   I had called Dr. Hamid because I was curious if Dr. Hamouda knew Dr. Ayman or had been taught by his sister, microbiology professor Heba Zawahiri.

Dr. “Tawfik” Hamid told me that when he called Dr. Hamouda once from abroad to ask him about patents (before 911), Dr. Hamouda said it was all in the marketing.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 157 Comments »