Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-ZawahiriIANS (File photo)

Top Al Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri killed in US drone strike in Afghanistan

Washington, August 2, 2022

The United States said on Monday that it had killed top Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike as part of a counter-terrorism operation in Afghanistan.

"My fellow Americans, on Saturday, at my direction, the United States successfully concluded an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed the emir of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri," US President Joe Biden told journalists at the White House.

"You know, al-Zawahiri was bin Laden’s leader. He was with him all the — the whole time. He was his number-two man, his deputy at the time of the terrorist attack of 9/11. 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," he said.

Biden said that, for decades, al-Zawahiri was a mastermind behind attacks against Americans, including the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors and wounded dozens more. He was also said to have played a key role in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 and wounding over 4,500 others.

"He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats, and American interests. And since the United States delivered justice to bin Laden 11 years ago, Zawahiri has been a leader of al Qaeda — the leader.

"From hiding, he coordinated al Qaeda’s branches and all around the world — including setting priorities, for providing operational guidance that called for and inspired attacks against U.S. targets.

"He made videos, including in recent weeks, calling for his followers to attack the United States and our allies. Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more," Biden 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.

You know, we — we make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out," he said.

"After relentlessly seeking Zawahiri for years under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump, our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year. He had moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family.

"After carefully considering the clear and convincing evidence of his location, I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield once and for all," he said.

Biden said the mission was carefully planned and rigorously minimized the risk of harm to other civilians. "And one week ago, after being advised that the conditions were optimal, I gave the final approval to go get him, and the mission was a success. None of his family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties," he said.

"I’m sharing this news with the American people now, after confirming the mission’s total success through the painstaking work of our counterterrorism community and key allies and partners.

"My administration has kept congressional leaders informed as well.

"When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I 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’d continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.

"In February, our forces conducted a daring mission in Syria that eliminated the emir of ISIS. Last month, we took out another key ISIS leader. Now we have eliminated the emir of al Qaeda. He will never again — never again allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven because he is gone, and we’re going to make sure that nothing else happens. You know, it can’t be a launching pad against the United States. We’re going to see to it that won’t happen.

"This operation is a clear demonstration that we will, we can, and we’ll always make good on the sol- — solemn pledge. My administration will continue to vigilantly monitor and address threats from al Qaeda, no matter where they emanate from," he said.

"As Commander-in-Chief, it is my solemn responsibility to make America safe in a dangerous world. The United States did not seek this war against terror. It came to us, and we answered with the same principles and resolve that have shaped us for generation upon generation: to protect the innocent, defend liberty, and we keep the light of freedom burning — a beacon for the rest of the entire world.

IANS adds:

Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian by birth who had trained to be a medical doctor, had a US reward of $25 million for information leading to his capture.

He was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired at him from a CIA-run drone while he was on the balcony of a house in Kabul where he had been staying with his family.


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