Washington: The United States troops have killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Joe Biden said on Monday, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Zawahiri died after a US drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul at 6:18 a.m. (0148 GMT) on Sunday. ‘On Saturday, at my direction, the United States successfully concluded an air strike in Kabul, Afghanistan and killed Al Qaeda Amir Ayman al-Zawahiri’, Biden said in a media briefing.
The US President said that justice has been delivered, adding, ‘No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the US will find you and take you out. He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats, and American interests. Zawahri was Bin Laden’s leader, his number two man, and his deputy during the time of terrorist attacks on 9/11. He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11’. ‘When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I made a 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’, Biden said, adding ‘I made a promise to the American people that we would continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that’.
Reports surpassed on Monday that the US killed Zawahiri in Afghanistan in a drone strike. Following this, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the strike and said, ‘An air strike 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’. 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’.
The US State Department had offered a reward of up to USD 25 million for information leading directly to Zawahiri’s capture. With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said. He was indicted in the United States for his role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others. Both Bin laden and Zawahiri eluded capture when US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.