President Biden announced on Monday that Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed on Sunday in a counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan that has been confirmed as a drone strike. Thirteen American military personnel and scores of Afghans were killed in a terrorist bombing as the withdrawal was underway.
The 71-year-old Egyptian co-founded al-Qaeda and helped Bin Laden build an operation to spread radical Islam and murder.
Zawahiri founded Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which merged with al-Qaeda in 1998.
Biden noted that the strike brought another measure of justice for the victims of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil.
Biden said the strike in Kabul showed that the US remained a force to be reckoned with in the region, and would not let Afghanistan again become a terrorist ‘safe haven’.
The President praised the operation as a triumph of U.S. intelligence, although Zawahiri eluded detection for more than two decades. Zawahiri was located some months ago in Kabul as he sought to reunite with his family.
The drone strike had been planned for weeks, according to a senior administration official, and included a scale model of Zawahiri’s house in Kabul that was displayed in the White House situation room. Zawahiri was killed when he ventured out onto a balcony.
Zawahiri’s discovery in Kabul suggests close collaboration between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Taliban provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda before 11 September 2001.
The strike was the first known U.S. anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan since the chaotic U.S. departure. The U.S. pulled off the operation notwithstanding the loss of listening posts on the ground.