Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike on a house in central Kabul, Afghanistan, according to the US.
Al-Zawahiri, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, is considered one of the masterminds behind the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. He took over the armed group after the United States killed then-al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Here’s what we know so far about the attack:
What is America saying?
- Biden opened up about the CIA’s high-precision attack, which took place on July 31, while he was recovering from COVID-19 a few days earlier.
- American intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahiri to a house in central Kabul where he was staying with his family.
- Biden said he hoped al-Zawahiri’s death would bring “an end” to the families of the 3,000 people killed in the US on 9/11, saying “justice has been delivered”.
- No civilians were killed, Biden said, warning that Washington would not allow Afghanistan to become “a safe haven for terrorists” again.
- A senior US administration official said al-Zawahiri was on the balcony of a house in Kabul when he was targeted with two Hellfire missiles, an hour after sunrise.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the Taliban of “serious violations” of the Doha Agreement by organizing and sheltering al-Zawahiri. Signed by the Taliban and the US in the Qatari capital in 2020, the treaty has facilitated the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.
What is the Taliban’s response?
- The Taliban, which returned to power in Afghanistan last year, confirmed the attack without naming al-Zawahiri.
- It condemned the drone strike as a “violation of international principles” and a violation of the Doha Agreement.
- Taliban leader spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack was carried out on a residential house in the Sherpur area of Kabul, where many Taliban leaders reside.
- Mujahid said the US strike was “a repeat of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and goes against the interests of the US, Afghanistan and the region”.
Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?
- Al-Zawahiri, a trained surgeon, has born in Cairo in 1951 into a middle-class family of doctors and scholars.
- He was arrested at the age of 15 for being a member of the outlaw Muslim Brotherhood.
- In 1985, he left Egypt for Pakistan’s Peshawar, where he worked as a doctor treating fighters wounded in battles against Soviet forces occupying neighboring Afghanistan.
- He is indicted in the US for his role in the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured more than 5,000 others.
- He is also believed to have plotted the October 12, 2000 attack on the naval ship USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors and injured more than 30 others.
- Al-Zawahiri was the second in command of the 9/11 plot, and came to power after bin Laden was killed in 2011.
What is the international response?
- Saudi Arabia welcomed the announcement of al-Zawahiri’s death, saying that “thousands of innocent people of various nationalities and religions, including Saudi citizens, were killed by the terrorists under his leadership.
- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australians’ thoughts were with the families of all the victims of al-Zawahri’s “act of terror”.
- Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, also said al-Zawahiri’s murder was “a step towards a safer world”.