US President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States had killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike. “I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield, once and for all,” Biden said. Zawahiri, who just turned 71 years old, had remained a visible international symbol of the group, 11 years after the US killed Osama bin Laden. At one point, he acted as bin Laden’s personal physician.
Osama bin Laden’s successor Ayman al-Zawahiri had been sheltering in downtown Kabul to reunite with his family, US vice president Joe Biden said on Monday. He was killed in what a senior administration official described as “a precise tailored airstrike” using two Hellfire missiles. The drone strike was conducted at 9:48 p.m. ET on Saturday and was authorized by Biden following weeks of meetings with his Cabinet and key advisers, the official said on Monday, adding that no American personnel were on the ground in Kabul at the time of the strike. Senior Haqqani Taliban figures were aware of Al-Zawahiri’s presence in the area, even taking steps to conceal his presence after Saturday’s successful strike by restricting access to the safe house and quickly relocating members of his family; including his daughter and her children who were intentionally not targeted during the strike and remained unharmed. The US did not alert Taliban officials ahead of Saturday’s strike.
On July 31, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that an air strike was carried out on a residential house in Sherpur area of Kabul city. Security and intelligence services of the Islamic Emirate investigated the attack, and initial findings determined that the strike was carried out by an American drone. The tweets by Mujahid came out prior to CNN reporting Zawahiri’s death. Mujahid said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan “strongly condemns this attack on any pretext and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement”
‘Justice has been delivered’
Biden, who was kept abreast of the strike against Zawahiri as he isolated with a rebound case of Covid-19, spoke outdoors Monday from the Blue Room Balcony at the White House. Zawahiri, Biden said, “was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks against Americans. 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,” he continued. “The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm.”
The President announced that the United States had conducted a precision strike targeting Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda. He said, “Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year — he moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family.” The strike comes one year after Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, prompting Taliban forces to rapidly seize control of the nation.
Zawahiri was killed by US forces during a raid in Pakistan. The President of the United States expressed gratitude to US intelligence and counterterrorism communities, saying that he hopes Zawahiri’s death will bring some measure of closure to the friends and families of 9/11 victims. “To those who continue to seek to harm the United States, hear me now: We will always remain vigilant and we will act — and we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe,” he concluded.