The US killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, in the first known counter-terrorism operation in the country since the fall of the Taliban last year.
“After careful consideration of the clear and convincing evidence of” [Zawahiri’s] location, I authorized a precision strike that would once and forever remove him from the battlefield,” said President Joe Biden.
“My administration will continue to monitor and address threats from al-Qaeda, regardless of where they originate,” he said.
Zawahiri was Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command and took control of al-Qaeda after bin Laden was killed by US Navy troops in a raid in 2011.
The US learned that Zawahiri’s family had moved to a safe house in Kabul and later traced the al-Qaeda leader there. Senior administrative officials were informed of the intelligence in April, and the president was later informed of his whereabouts.
On several occasions, Zawahiri was seen on the balcony of the safe house, and was eventually killed there over the weekend. A senior US administration official said his family was elsewhere in the house when the operation took place and they were not targeted or targeted.
A US administration official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his whereabouts in Kabul. The official said Biden authorized the operation on July 25.
Zawahiri is believed to be the only person killed in the strike. A US official said the drone strike that killed Zawahiri took place in Afghanistan on Sunday and fired two Hellfire missiles.
“I promised the American people that we would continue to have effective counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that,” Biden said, speaking at the White House nearly a year after America’s chaotic and bloody withdrawal from Afghanistan .
Zawahiri, a physician, previously led Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, before the group merged with al-Qaeda. Later he climbed the ladder of terrorist organization.
He is believed to have plotted the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 US service members, and was also an architect of the deadly September 11, 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
He was indicted by the US for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings on the country’s embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
The US State Department offered a reward of up to $25 million to anyone providing information about Zawahiri.