Abdullah Yusuf Azzam

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Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (1941-1989) was a Palestinian activist who headed Maktab al-Khadamet al-Mujahidin al Arab (Office of the Services to the Arab Mujahidin), or MAK, a network designed to send soldiers from Muslim countries to fight the Soviets. MAK's main financier was the before-he-was-famous Osama bin Laden, whom Azzam had met at the King Abdul Aziz University.[1]

"It was Azzam who, more than anyone else, helped popularize the burgeoning Jihadist movement", writes Reza Aslan. "His widely-read periodical, Al-Jihad, published in 1984, spread the ideology of global jihad to every corner of the Muslim world".[2]

Azzam is said to have joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and first met the younger Ayman al-Zawahiri in Cairo the early 1970s.[3]


Azzam and his two sons were assassinated in November 1989. His killer or killers have not been identified, but two theories exist.

The first theory is bin Laden whacked Azzam himself to become the undisputed leader of global jihad. Azzam wanted to continue on the local-level against apostate Muslim regimes while bin Laden, all full of himself after allegedly destroying one superpower, wanted to take jihad global and destroy the remaining superpower.

The second theory is bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, spread rumours that Azzam was a U.S. spy knowing that this would lead someone to kill him. Al-Zawahiri viewed Azzam as a rival for leadership in the jihadist movement and for bin Laden's financial support.[4]


  1. Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War, p.115
  2. Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War, pp.115-6
  3. p. 15.
  4. Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War, p.117