Joe Biden confirms US killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

The United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, the biggest blow to the militant group since the death of his founder Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Zawahiri died after a US drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul at 6:18 a.m. on Sunday.

“Now justice has been served, and that terrorist leader is no more,” Mr. Biden, who is recovering from COVID-19, said in a speech from the White House.

“No matter how long it takes, no matter where you are hiding, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and eliminate you.”

US intelligence has determined with “high confidence” through multiple intelligence feeds that the slain man was al-Zawahiri, a senior administration official told reporters. He was killed on the balcony of a “safe house” in Kabul which he shared with other members of his family. No other casualties occurred.
Mr Biden said al-Zawahiri had been the mastermind or played a key role in the attacks on the USS Cole and the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
“Al-Zawahiri continued to pose an active threat to the persons, interests, and national security of the United States,” the official said on a conference call.
“His death is a severe blow to al-Qaeda and will degrade the group’s ability to function.”

There have been rumors of al-Zawahiri’s death on several occasions in recent years, and it has long been reported that he was in poor health.

His death raises questions about whether al-Zawahiri received refuge from the Taliban after they took over Kabul in August 2021. The official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in the city and said that the United States expected the Taliban to honor an agreement. not to allow al-Qaeda fighters to resettle in the country.
The drone attack is the first known U.S. strike in Afghanistan since U.S. troops and diplomats left the country in August 2021. The move could bolster the credibility of Washington’s assurances that the U.S. can still meet the challenges. threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike had taken place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of “international principles”.

Al-Zawahiri succeeded bin Laden as leader of al-Qaeda after years as the main organizer and strategist, but his lack of charisma and competition from rival Islamic State militants hampered his ability to inspire spectacular attacks against the West.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers hailed the operation.

“The world is safer without him and this strike demonstrates our continued commitment to tracking down all terrorists responsible for 9/11 and those who continue to pose a threat to American interests,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said.

Until the US announcement, al-Zawahiri had been widely rumored to be in the tribal area of ​​Pakistan or inside Afghanistan.
A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic headscarf dispelled rumors that he was dead.

The senior US official said the discovery of al-Zawahiri was the result of persistent counterterrorism work. The United States identified this year that al-Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and children had moved to a safe house in Kabul, then identified that al-Zawahiri was there as well, the official said.

A file photo of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri at an undisclosed location

This image released by Al-Jazeera in 2001 purportedly shows Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri at an undisclosed location on September 11, 2001. Source: Provided / AlJazeera

“Once al-Zawahiri arrived at the scene, we don’t know that he ever left the safe house,” the official said. He was identified several times on the balcony, where he was finally beaten. He continued to produce videos from the house and some may be released after his death, the official said.

In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has summoned officials to review the information. He was updated throughout May and June and was briefed July 1 on a proposed operation by intelligence chiefs. On July 25, he received an updated report and authorized the strike as soon as an opportunity arose, the administration official said.

A loud explosion sounded in Kabul early Sunday morning.
“A house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor. There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor, spokesman for the interior ministry, said earlier.

A Taliban source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least one drone reportedly flew over Kabul that morning.

Along with other senior al-Qaeda operatives, al-Zawahiri allegedly plotted the Oct. 12, 2000 attack on the Navy ship USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded more than 30 others, according to the report. Rewards for Justice website.
He was indicted in the United States for his role in the August 7, 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead and more than 5,000 injured.

Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri both evaded capture when US-led forces overthrew the Afghan Taliban government in late 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the United States.