FILE – In this 1998 file photo made available on March 19, 2004, Ayman al-Zawahri poses for a photograph in Khost, Afghanistan. Al-Zawahri, the top al-Qaida leader, was killed by the U.S. over the weekend in Afghanistan. President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak about the operation on Monday night, Aug. 1, 2022, from the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)
UPDATED 6:32 AM PT – Tuesday, August 2, 2022
The White House announced the death of a prominent figure in Al-Qaeda. President Joe Biden confimred the successful killing of terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri. In a Monday press conference, the President said Zawahiri was killed by a drone strike over the weekend in the Afghan capitol of Kabul.
“After relentlessly seeking Zawahri for years under Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, our Intelligence Community located Zawahri earlier this year,” Biden stated. “He’d moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family. After carefully considering clear and convincing evidence of his location, I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield once and for all. This mission was carefully planned, rigorously minimized the risk of harm to other civilians.”
Zawahiri played a prominent role in the organization by acting as Osama Bin Laden’s second-in-command before taking over as their leader after the death of Bin Laden in 2011. He was also reportedly involved in the planning of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center as well as bombings at two US embassies in Africa that claimed the lives of 224 people.
“He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11,” said Biden. “One of the most responsible for the attacks and murdered 2,977 people on American soil. For decades, he was the mastermind behind attacks against Americans, including the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 which killed 17 American sailors and wounded dozens more. He played a key role in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 and wounding over 4,500 others.”
Biden then went on to say that he will be continuing to address threats from the organization despite the death of Zawahiri.
“My administration will continue to vigilantly monitor and address threats from Al-Qaeda, no matter where they emanate from,” he noted. “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. We answered with the same principles of 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.”
The operation marked the first publicly announced CIA strike in Afghanistan since Biden’s botched withdrawal of US forces last year. Zawahiri’s death comes as a heavy blow to international terrorism and it may reduce competition between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the Afghan powerplay.
Senior Taliban figures were reportedly aware of Zawahiri’s presence in the area. They even took steps to conceal his presence after Saturday’s successful strike by restricting access to the safe house and rapidly relocating members of his family, including his daughter and her children who were intentionally not targeted during the strike and remained unharmed. The US did not alert Taliban officials ahead of Saturday’s strike.