The United States has killed a senior leader of the terrorist Al-Qaeda organisation, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a drone strike in Afghanistan on Sunday, July 31 (Singapore time), international media reported on Aug. 2.
U.S. President Joe Biden said in a tweet, "Justice has been delivered."
On Saturday, at my direction, the United States successfully conducted an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed the emir of al-Qa’ida: Ayman al-Zawahiri.— President Biden (@POTUS) August 1, 2022
Justice has been delivered.
Legacy of terror
Zawahiri was a former eye surgeon from Egypt, involved in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, according to CNN.
He worked towards overthrowing the Egyptian government and replacing it with fundamentalist Islamic rule.
After being imprisoned for three years, Zawahiri journeyed to Pakistan, treating wounded mujahadeen fighters who resisted the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan.
It was in Pakistan where he met Osama bin Laden and the two formed an alliance.
Zawahiri announced the merger of his terrorist group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, with Osama's Al-Qaeda in 1998. The BBC labelled him the "ideological brains" behind Al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda conducted numerous terrorist attacks in the next few years, including the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors.
Zawahiri was also involved in the planning behind the 9/11 attacks, which saw terrorists hijack airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Strike in Kabul
Zawahiri was sheltering in a safehouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, CNN reported, citing a U.S. official.
He was killed in a "precise tailored strike" with two drone Hellfire missiles, authorised by president Biden. No U.S. personnel were on the ground at the time of the strike.
The U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021 after a 20-year presence, and the Afghanistan government was subsequently overthrown by the Taliban.
The U.S. did not alert the Taliban government of the impending strike.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, who condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it a violation of the Doha Agreement.
داسلامي امارت امنیتي او استخباراتي ارګانونو دپېښې پلټنه وکړه او په ابتدائيي تحقیقاتو کې يې دا ومونده چې یاد برید دامریکايي ډرون الوتکو له لوري شوی.— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) August 1, 2022
دا برید که په هره پلمه شوی وي دافغانستان اسلامي امارت یې په کلکو ټکو غندي او دبین المللي اصولو او ددوحې تړون ښکاره سرغړونه یې بولي.
However, CNN also cited a U.S. official who said the Taliban were aware of Zawahiri's presence in the area and took steps to conceal his presence after the strike, which they said was a violation of the Doha Agreement.
The agreement, signed by the Trump Administration with the Taliban, called on the Taliban to renounce Al-Qaeda and prevent it from using Afghan soil to plot attacks on the U.S. or its allies.
According to CNBC, citing a senior Biden administration official, Zawahiri was located earlier this year and he was watched for months before the strike:
"We identified al-Zawahiri on multiple occasions for sustained periods of time on the balcony where he was ultimately struck.
Al-Zawahiri’s family members were present in other parts of the safe house at the time of the strike and were purposely not targeted and were unarmed. We have no indication that civilians were harmed in this strike."
Top image from Getty Images.