The United States on Tuesday early morning confirmed that its ‘precision drone strike’ in Kabul killed Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahari, in the biggest blow to the global terror network since killing of its founder Osama bin Laden in 2011 in Pakistan.
US President Joe Biden in his address to the Nation declared that justice has been delivered and this (Zawahari) terrorist is no more.
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
“I authorised a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield, once and for all,” Biden said on from the White House.
“He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11, one of the most responsible for the attacks that murdered 2,977 people on American soil. For decades, he was the mastermind of attacks against Americans”.
“Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer,” Biden added.
The 71-year-old Egyptian surgeon, who had a USD 25 million bounty on his head, assumed the leadership of Al-Qaeda after the killing of Bin Laden in 2011.
According to media reports, Zawahiri was on the balcony of a safe house when the drone fired two missiles at him. Other family members were present, but they were unharmed and only Zawahiri was killed.
Biden said the precision strike targeting was the result of the “extraordinary persistence and skill” of the nation’s intelligence community.
“Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year – he moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family,” Biden said.
His killing will bring closure to families of the victims of the 2001 attacks, Biden said, adding that Zawahiri had also masterminded other acts of violence, including the suicide bombing of the USS Cole naval destroyer in Aden in October 2000 which killed 17 US sailors.
The strike comes one year after Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, prompting Taliban forces to rapidly seize control of the war-torn nation.
Zawahiri comes from a distinguished Egyptian family, according to the New York Times.
His grandfather, Rabia’a al-Zawahiri, was an imam at the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo. His great-uncle, Abdel Rahman Azzam, was the first secretary of the Arab League.
He played central role in the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and eventually helped to mastermind the deadliest terror attack on American soil, when hijackers turned US airliners into missiles.
In September 2014, Zawahiri had announced the creation of Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate – the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), taking advantage of sanctuaries in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“A new branch of Al-Qaeda was established – Qaeda al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad,…and return the Islamic rule across the Indian subcontinent,” Zawahiri had said at the time.
Meanwhile Taliban condemned the US strike on its soil and called it a clear violation of international principles and Doha agreement.
“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and are against the interests of the United States of America, Afghanistan and the region,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the BBC.
In a series of tweets, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, “An airstrike was carried out on a residential house in Sherpur area of Kabul city on July 31.”
He said, “The nature of the incident was not apparent at first” but the security and intelligence services of the Islamic Emirate investigated the incident and “initial findings determined that the strike was carried out by an American drone.”
(With Inputs from PTI and media reports)