US says it killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan
The US killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, in the first known counterterrorism operation in the country since it crashed. to the Taliban last year.
“After careful consideration of the clear and convincing evidence about [Zawahiri’s] position, I allowed a precision strike that would knock him off the battlefield once and for all,” President Joe Biden said at the White House on Monday.
“My administration will continue to monitor and address threats posed by al-Qaeda with caution, no matter where they come from,” he added.
Zawahiri was second in command of Osama bin Laden and took control al Qaeda after the US Navy killed bin Laden in a raid in 2011.
The US learned that Zawahiri’s family had moved to a safe house in Kabul and that the al-Qaeda leader had moved there. Senior administration officials were briefed on the intelligence in April, and subsequently informed the president of Zawahiri’s whereabouts.
Several times, Zawahiri was discovered on the balcony of the safe house, and he ended up being attacked there over the weekend. A senior US government official said his family was elsewhere in the home during the operation and was not targeted or attacked.
Senior officials of the The Haqqani network linked to the Taliban knew Zawahiri’s location in Kabul, the US administration official said. Biden authorized the operation on July 25, the official added.
Zawahiri is believed to be the only person who died during the operation. The US official said the drone strike that killed Zawahiri took place on Sunday and that two Hellfire missiles were fired.
“I have promised the American people that we will continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We did it,” Biden said, speaking about a year after the US pulled out Afghanistan.
Zawahiri, a doctor, previously led Egypt’s Islamic Jihad before it merged with al-Qaeda. He then climbed the ladder of the terrorist organization.
He is believed to have plotted the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 US service members, and was also responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. network.
He is indicted by the US for allegedly playing a role in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
The US State Department has offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to Zawahiri.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have praised the operation and that American security officials have been involved, although some Republicans said they emphasized al-Qaeda’s operational capabilities. in Afghanistan.
“Our chaotic and deadly retreat from Afghanistan has opened the door for al-Qaeda to freely operate in the country to advance,” said Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House foreign affairs committee. conduct external operations against the United States and our allies again.”
Washington’s allies also praised the operation. Richard Moore, head of UK MI6, wrote on Twitter: “Hard work expertly done by our US allies. “The end of a long, shared effort since 9/11 to eliminate the threat posed by Zawahiri – the man responsible, with his toxic creed, for the deaths of so many in the past three decades.”
A Taliban spokesman said the operation violated international principles and the Doha Agreement, the US agreement with the Taliban that led to the withdrawal of US troops last year.
The senior government official said Zawahiri’s presence in downtown Kabul violated the agreement.