On Monday, President Joe Biden said 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 is the second most-wanted terrorist on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, behind only Osama bin Laden. Zawahiri has been involved with al Qaeda since its inception in 1988 and acted as bin Laden’s personal physician. He was also a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), an organization founded by Islamic scholar Sayyed Imam al-Sharif (also known as Dr. Fadl).
According to Vice President Joe Biden, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was sheltering in downtown Kabul to reunite with his family. Mr. Zawahiri 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. Senior Haqqani Taliban figures were aware of Zawahiri’s presence in the area, the official said. In “clear violation” of the Doha agreement, they even took steps to conceal his presence after Saturday’s successful strike; restricting access to the safe house and rapidly relocating members of his family, including his daughter and her children. The US did not alert Taliban officials ahead of Saturday’s strike; however, American officials notified Pakistan’s army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa after it happened (BBC).
In a series of tweets on July 31, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, “An air strike was carried out on a residential house in Sherpur area of Kabul city.” He said the nature of the incident was unclear at first but that local officials investigated and found that it was an American drone. The tweets came out before CNN reported Ayman al-Zawahiri’s death. “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,” Mujahid said.
‘Justice has been delivered’
On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden said that Osama bin Laden was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11, one of the most responsible for the attacks in which 2,977 people on American soil were murdered. For decades, he was the mastermind of attacks against Americans. “Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” he said. “People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.” The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm, he continued. We make it clear again tonight: no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, we will find you and take you out.
In a recent speech, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden’s successor and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed in a CIA drone strike in the Afghan capital of Kabul. “Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year — he moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family,” Biden said. 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. Biden said on Monday that when he withdrew US troops from the country, he “made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm, and I made a promise to the American people, that we continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.”
Zawahiri’s death, which occurred during a US drone strike in Pakistan, is a major blow to Al Qaeda and will likely disrupt their operations greatly. President Obama said that he hopes the death will bring some measure of closure to the friends and families of 9/11 victims. He also expressed his gratitude to US intelligence and counterterrorism communities, saying that he hopes Zawahiri’s death will help prevent similar tragedies in the future.