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The Investigation
Full coverage of US attacks and their aftermath

-Bin Laden
-The hijackers
-Other suspects

Accomplices Hundreds of people have been investigated as being possible accomplices in the attacks of 11 September. But little evidence has emerged directly linking the other suspects to the hijackings.

However, three figures have emerged who are thought to be the key accomplices of Osama Bin Laden. They are Ayman al-Zawahri, Mullah Mohammed Omar and Mohammed Atef. Atef has already been killed.

The investigation has been hampered by the deaths of the hijackers. Those thought to have masterminded the operation - especially Bin Laden - are thought likely to fight to the death rather than surrender.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahri has been named by Israeli intelligence as the "operational brains" behind the 11 September attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Zawahri is thought to have played a central role in forging a coalition between the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group and Bin Laden's al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

He was a guest at the wedding of Bin Laden's son in Kandahar in January 2001 - reportedly making the first speech at the wedding.

Following the death of Bin Laden's religious mentor - the Palestinian scholar Abdullah Azzam - in a car bomb in Peshawar, Zawahri appears to have taken on the role of chief ideologue in the Bin Laden group.

Some analysts say that Zawahri is Bin Laden's right-hand man, others that this may understate his importance. It is believed that Zawahri now controls much of al-Qaeda's finance operations.

Zawahiri was on the FBI's most-wanted list for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Known history

Born in Egypt in 1951, Ayman al-Zawahri, comes from a middle class family of doctors and scholars. His grandfather, Rabi'a al-Zawahri, was the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar university, a centre of Islamic learning in the Arab world.

He was arrested at the age of 15 for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is outlawed in Egypt and is the Arab world's oldest fundamentalist group.

Zawahri was tried along with scores of radical Islamists for their part in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat during a Cairo military parade.

He was convicted and served a three-year sentence for illegal possession of arms. After his release, he left for Saudi Arabia.

Soon afterwards he headed for Peshawar and later to neighbouring Afghanistan where he established a faction of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.

In 1997, the US State Department named him as leader of the Vanguards of Conquest group - a faction of Islamic Jihad thought to have been behind the massacre of foreign tourists in Luxor the same year.

In 1998, he was the second of five signatories to Bin Laden's notorious 1998 religious ruling, or fatwa, calling for attacks against US civilians.

Mullah Mohammed OmarMullah Mohammed Omar, the spiritual and political leader of the Taleban, has been accused of harbouring Osama Bin Laden and other members of the al-Qaeda network.

Mullah Omar has vigorously defended Bin Laden against allegations that he masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He has argued that Bin Laden was not capable of such an act and accused the US of trying to cover up their own intelligence failures.

The Taleban leader has said that the attacks on the US were a "sad event", but that they were launched to avenge the "cruelty" of American foreign policy.

Known history

No Western journalist has ever met Mullah Omar, who leaves virtually all contact with the outside world to his representatives.

Mullah Omar and Bin Laden are believed to have fought together to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.

The dramatic takeover of Afghanistan led by Mullah Omar is said to have been partly financed by Osama Bin Laden.

Mullah Omar emerged from the war against the Soviets to conquer Afghanistan as "commander of the faithful". The title has great resonance in the Islamic world.

Under Mullah Omar's rule, an extremely strict interpretation of Islamic law was imposed on the 90% of Afghanistan that was ruled by the Taleban.

He is thought to have fled from Kandahar during the military offensive at the end of 2001 and his current whereabouts are unknown.

Mohammed Atef

Mohammed Atef was the military leader of al-Qaeda, and described by the US as one of the top two associates of Osama Bin Laden. Some United States security sources have alleged that he was the mastermind behind the 11 September attacks.

He was killed by US raids shortly after the Northern Alliance captured Kabul in November 2001. His daughter is married to Bin Ladenís son.

Known history

Atef, who is thought to have been in his late 50s, is a former member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group which killed the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. He had been a close aide to Bin Laden for about 10 years and became the military leader of al-Qaeda five years ago.

He was accused of encouraging attacks on US forces in Somalia in 1993 in which 18 died, and directing the bombers who struck US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania three years ago.

Full profiles:

  • Ayman al-Zawahri
  • Mullah Mohammed Omar
  • Muhammed Atef
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