US drone attack kills al Qaeda leader Zawahiri in Afghanistan
The United States carried out a "successful" counter-terrorism operation against an "important" al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan over the weekend, a senior government official said.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian medical doctor who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the attacks of September 11, 2001, which killed close to 3,000 people.
The American officials, speaking anonymously, said that the United States conducted a drone strike in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Sunday morning at 6:18 local time.
The American intelligence services determined with “great confidence” that the man killed was Zawahiri, a senior government official said. There was no other casualty.
“Zawahiri threatened the individuals, interests, and national security of the United States,’ the official said during a conference call. “His death will severely harm al-Qaeda and weaken the group’s ability to operate.”
There were rumors of Zawahiri’s death on several occasions in recent years, and he would have long been in poor health.
His death raises the question of whether Zawahiri received refuge from the Taliban after they came into power in August 2021. The official stated that senior Taliban officials knew of his presence in the city.
The drone attack is the first known American strike in Afghanistan since U.S. troops and diplomats departed in August 2021.
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahedin confirmed that a strike had taken place and strongly condemned it, describing it as a “violation of international principles.”
The senior US official said that finding Zawahiri was the result of an effort to combat terrorism. The United States identified this year that Zawahiri’s wife, daughter, and children moved into a secure house in Kabul, and identified that Zawahiri was also there, the official stated.
“Once Zawahiri arrived at the place, we were unaware of his ever leaving the secure house,” the official said. He was identified several times on the balcony, where he was finally struck. He continued to make videos of the house and some could be released after his death, the official said.
In the last few weeks, Biden summoned officials to examine the information. He was made aware in May and June and was informed on July 1 of an operation proposed by the intelligence officials. On July 25, he received an updated report and authorized the strike at his earliest convenience.
An explosion took place in Kabul early Sunday morning.
“A rocket shot down a house in Sherpoor. There were no victims because the house was empty,’ said Abdul Nafi Takor, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior.
An anonymous Taliban source claimed that at least one drone flew over Kabul that morning.
Along with other senior Al-Qaeda officials, Zawahiri is believed to have conspired on October 12, 2000 attack against the naval ship USS Cole in Yemen which killed 17 American sailors and wounded more than 30 others, the site Rewards for Justice says.
He was charged in the United States for his role in the August 7, 1998 bombings against American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which resulted in 224 deaths and over 5,000 injuries.
Both bin Laden and Zawahiri escaped capture when U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001 after the September 11 attacks against the United States.