Back in the 1980s and early 90s. Pablo Escobar of the Medellin Cartel was the most dreaded drug lords in Colombia and his notoriety extended far into the United States. Escobar, then the world’s most wanted man could afford to fly airplanes laden with narcotic drugs from South America into other continents. Even law enforcement agents dreaded him and members of his cartel were spared jail because judges were often asked “copper or lead”, another phrase for “money or bullets” Choosing money would mean financial gain for the judge, while its refusal automatically meant bullets. Sending a member of Escobar’s cartel to prison is an obvious indication that the judge has signed his own death warrant.
Years after Escobar’s death in a gun duel with security agents, who tried to apprehend him in 1993, the world’s most wanted man’s position became occupied by Osama bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian who headed Al Qaeda, the most sinister organisation the world has known in recent times.
And sequel to Bin Laden’s death, the world has a new “Most Wanted” man.
Ayman Mohammed al-Zawahiri
At present, 62-year-old Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian, and leader of the al Qaeda terrorist organisation is the world’s most wanted man. Though a trained physician, Al-Wahiri has been a member of various organisations that carried out terror attacks in Europe and North America. He was the leader of the “Egyptian Islamic Jihad”, the group that carried out the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1995. He later became Osama bin Laden’s right hand man and after the death of the former leader of the organization, the mantle of leadership fell on the Egyptian.
The United States Government placed a reward of $ 25 million on him after the 9/11 attacks.
Al Zawahiri was active as a student activist and after he qualified as a surgeon, he went to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and stayed for a year to practise as a surgeon in Jeddah. He met Osama bin Laden in Jeddah in 1986 and when his organisation merged with al Qaeda, he became Bin Laden’s personal physician and adviser. He and bin Laden were given Afghan citizenship by the Taliban government in November 2001.
Loera, a Mexican, heads the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and his 5 ft 6 height earned him the nickname “Shorty Guzman” (El Chapo Guzman). What he however lacks in height, he wields in power and influence in the drug world.
With the arrest of Osiel Cardenas in 2003, Guzman became Mexico’s number 1 drug lord and presently, he is regarded by the United State’s Government as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker and ‘”godfather of the drug world”, having surpassed the exploits of Pablo Escobar.
Guzman Loera who sold oranges as a child, having been born to a poor family is listed as one of the richest men in Mexico with a net worth of over $ 1 billion. His cartel is responsible for the shipment of tonnes of cocaine from Colombia through Mexico into the United States. While the United States has offered a reward of $ 5 million for information leading to his capture, the Mexican government placed a reward of 30 million pesos for the same information. So far, all operations to capture him have failed.
He is India’s most wanted man and also one of the most wanted men in the world. Dawood, whose father was a policeman, is the head of “D Company”, an Indian organised crime syndicate based in Mumbai. He is believed to have organised and financed the Bombay bombings of 1993 as well the bombings in Mumbai, Kenya in 2008. He is also believed to have close links to Al-Qaeda and was declared a global terrorist in 2003. 57-year-old Dawood had business interests in Dubai, where he lived and India his home country.
Ukrainian-born Mogilevich is believed to be the overlord of most, if not all the Russian Mafia syndicates in the world. His business acumen earned him the nickname “The Brainy Don”. He resides in Moscow and he owns a gas company. Though he has legal businesses, he is believed to operate a worldwide network of prostitution, weapon and drug smuggling. The FBI describes him as the “world’s most dangerous mobster” while the British Government calls him “one of the most dangerous men in the world”. He has been banned from entering the United Kingdom.
Mogilevich is believed to be untouchable both in Russia and Ukraine. A former Prime Minister in Ukraine was dragged to court for destroying files that pertained to Mogilevich.
At a point, he held Ukranian, Hungarian, Russian and Israeli citizenships. He has however been declared persona non grata in Hungary. He owns a company that manufactures anti-aircraft guns as well as a substantial amount of shares in Sukhoi, a military aircraft manufacturing company.
For ten years running, governments across the world have been trying without success to prosecute him. Mogilevich is believed to have ordered several executions, including via direct shooting and car bombs. He was arrested for tax evasion in Russia and later released because the charges against him “were not so grave”.
Nasir al Wuhayshi, also known as “Abu Basir” is the Emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). His appointment was confirmed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the overall leader in a video posted online.
Abu Basir was born in Yemen and for years, he served as Bin Laden’s Secretary in Afgahanistan. He presided over the merger of the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni arms of Al Qaeda to form AQAP. He was arrested in Iran after he left Afghanistan in 2001 and was extradited to Yemen where he was imprisoned. He and 22 others however broke the Yemeni maximum security prison and escaped.
Though Yemeni officials claimed he was killed in the southern part of the country on August 28, 2011. AQAP has denied the claims. It was later found out that it was his look alike younger brother, Abdel al-Wuhayshi that was killed in the operation. As the Emir of Al Qaeda’s most vibrant arm, he is the most wanted man in Yemen.
He is also on the US wanted list. His group, AQAP has taken responsibility for Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day in 2009.
At 51, “Diabolik” as Denaro is better known in Italy has a place among the list of the 10 most wanted criminals in the world. Well known to be a Sicilian Mafioso, he is revered as the leader of the Cosa Nostra. Being the son of a Mafia Don, Matteo learnt to use a gun at 14 and by the time he was 18, he had already committed the first of his many murders.
He is known to love fast cars, especially Porsches, designer wears and wrist watches.
His father, Francesco Denaro was a popular Mafia Don that went by the name “Don Ciccio” and was the Cappo Mandamerito of the Trapani region. After the death of his father in 1998, he assumed leadership of the region’s Mafia and a lot of money comes in from businesses in the region who have no choice but to pay the Don for protection. He is also believed to be actively involved in drug trades.
He went into hiding after a series of bombings believed to have been perpetrated by his organization in 1993 and has not been seen since then.
64-year-old Uzbek national, Alimzhan has been to jail twice, first in 1972 and in 1985 for acts detrimental to the society. He moved to Paris, France in the early 1990s and soon got involved in the smuggling of hardware from Germany. He was arrested in Italy in 2002 at the request of the United States. Italian authorities however refused to extradite him to the US. He was freed eventually. He is wanted in the US for fraud related offences and a warrant for his arrest subsists.
He is called “Taiwanchick” mainly because of his Asian looks, despite being a European.
Kabuga who was one of the biggest tea farmers before the war that shook Rwanda in the 1990s is one of the Hutu extremists believed to have contributed to the Rwandan genocide. He was named as one of the main importers of the 500,000 machetes used by Hutus during the mass killings in 1994. He was also believed to have used his radio station to incite hatred.
He is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, having been charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.
Kony who is the head of the Lord’s Renaissance Army, a Ugandan guerrilla group was born to a Catechist of the Catholic Church. He was an altar boy in his early years but stopped attending church at the age of 15 and became an apprentice to the witch doctor in his village. Kony’s group pulled a surprise when it turned on its own supporters in a “purification effort” and slew some of them. The LRA seeks to install a theocracy based on the 10 Commandments and Acholi tradition in Uganda.
He allegedly ordered abduction of children to serve as sex slaves and soldiers. Under him, not less than 66,000 children became soldiers while millions have been displaced. Most of his children soldiers were reportedly left with no choice but to take up arms as their parents and neighbours were often killed. In an interview, Kony however stated that his army does not include children. “We don’t have children, we only have combatants”, he said.
Though Kony was convicted of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court at the Hague in 2005, he has remained invincible since then. His Lord’s Renaissance Army operates in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
Kony reportedly enjoyed support from the Sudanese government, in retaliation for the funding rebels from the region that has now become South Sudan enjoyed from the government of Uganda.
Kony’s LRA has been listed as a terrorist group by the American government.
Umarov, a 49-year-old Chechen Construction Engineer is also an Islamist militant. He has carried out several attacks on civilians. Known as “Russia’s Bin Laden”, Umarov has since ordered his group to leave out civilian targets and concentrate on military men and formations.
He is wanted for treason, homicide and kidnappings by the Russian Government after he declared an independent Islamic Caucasus Emirate of which he proclaimed himself as the Emir.
The United Nations Security Council has added him to the list of people affiliated with Al Qaeda. His group claimed responsibility for the bombing of a train station in Moscow in 2010 as well as the bombing of the Domodedovo International Airport in 2011.