Washington: US President Joe Biden has announced that Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan capital Kabul. He made the announcement while addressing the nation on the successful counter-terrorism operation.
I’m addressing the nation on a successful counterterrorism operation. https://t.co/SgTVaszA3s — President Biden (@POTUS) August 1, 2022
Biden expressed hope that the killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri brings “one more measure of closure” to families of the victims of September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Biden made the comments as he confirmed that a US drone strike in Afghanistan this weekend killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
“He will never again, again, allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven because he is gone and we’re going to make sure that nothing else happens,” Biden said in an address from the White House formally announcing the operation. “This terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.
On Saturday, at my direction, the United States successfully conducted an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed the emir of al-Qa’ida: Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Justice has been delivered. — President Biden (@POTUS) August 1, 2022
How was Zawahiri tracked and killed?
Biden said US intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family. The president approved the operation last week and it was carried out on Sunday. Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, US officials said on Monday, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. One of the US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the CIA carried out a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday.
“Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant al Qaeda target in Afghanistan,” a senior administration official said in a statement to reporters. “The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties,” the official added.
Rumours of Zawahiri’s death in past
There were rumors of Zawahiri`s death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health. His death raises questions about whether Zawahiri received sanctuary from the Taliban following their takeover of Kabul in August 2021.
The drone attack is the first known US strike inside Afghanistan since US troops and diplomats left the country in August 2021. The move may bolster the credibility of Washington`s assurances that the United States can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.
In a statement, Taliban and Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of “international principles.” Zawahiri`s whereabouts – variously rumoured to be in Pakistan`s tribal area or inside Afghanistan – had been unknown until the strike.
A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic head scarf dispelled rumors that he had died. A loud explosion echoed through Kabul early Sunday morning. “A house was hit a rocket in Sherpoor. There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor, earlier of the interior ministry, said.
With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said. He was indicted in the United States for his role in August 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.
Both bin Laden and Zawahiri eluded capture when US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Biden’s decision to kill Zawahiri is sure to be compared to the cautious stance he initially took in meetings that led to then-President Barack Obama’s order for the Pakistan raid that killed bin Laden in 2011.
Biden, who was then vice president, has acknowledged that he advised Obama to take more time. But he also told him to “follow your instincts” and ultimately supported his decision to go ahead.
(With Agency Inputs)
Obama, in his memoirs, wrote that Biden was concerned about “the enormous consequences of failure” and counseled the president to “defer any decision until the intelligence community was more certain that bin Laden was in the compound.”