Mother of Qaeda's second-in-command dies

The deceased was religious but not veiled


The mother of al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, died Sunday a week after being admitted to hospital.

Oamyma Azzam, 75, was admitted to hospital after an angina attack after which she sank into a coma and passed away in the afternoon.

Azzam is the sister of renowned lawyer Mahfouz Azzam, who was head of the Socialist Labor Party that was suspended by the Egyptian Committee for Political Parties Affairs since May 2000.

She married professor of pharmacology Dr. Rabei al-Zawahiri who comes from a family of doctors, pharmacists, chemists, judges, diplomats, and MPs. Her husband's uncle, Sheik Mohamed al-Ahmadi al-Zawahiri, was a renowned pharmacologist and was Grand Imam of al-Azhar from 1929 till 1935.

Azzam belonged to a wealthy family of scholars and diplomats. Her father, Abdul-Wahab Azzam was president of Cairo University and King Saud University in Riyadh as well as ambassador to Pakistan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Her uncle, Dr. Abdul-Rahman Azzam, was the Arab League's first Secretary General.

Azzam and her husband were moderately religious and she did not wear the veil. They both lived in a Cairo suburb where churches were more than mosques and which houses Victory College, established by the British.

The couple had five children, Ayman and his twin sister Omneya being the eldest. They both graduated from the Faculty of Medicine. The other girl, Heba, is a doctor, and the two other sons are both engineers.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad which he officially merged with al-Qaeda in 1998, becoming the group's second-in-command and always described as its brains and strategic commander.

He played an important role in several bombings that took place in Egypt in the 1990s and in 1999 was sentenced to death in absentia in the famous criminal trial that came to be known as the Returnees from Albania case.

Zawahiri is also wanted in the U.S. for his role in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)