In a surprising move, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and a key engineer of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the U.S., was killed by an American drone strike in Afghanistan.
According to reports, President Joe Biden gave the strike the green light, and it took place in the early morning hours last Sunday (July 31st). al-Zawahiri was hiding at a house in a central neighborhood in the capital city of Kabul. Intelligence agencies confirmed he was there earlier this year after relocating from a tribal area within neighboring Pakistan.
After the authorization, a drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency fired two Hellfire missiles, striking the terror leader as he was on the balcony of the home without harming anyone else.
President Biden held a press conference to address the nation about the strike on Monday evening (August 1st). “Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” the president said during the seven-minute address.
“We make it clear again tonight,” he continued, “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.”
The White House didn’t initially offer further details. Still, a senior official from the administration would provide more information anonymously to Reuters afterward about the complex operation to find al-Zawahiri and terminate him. News of the drone strike was met with approval by President Biden. The current Commander In Chief was taken to task for his removal of all American military forces from Afghanistan a year ago following an agreement by former President Donald Trump, allowing for the Taliban to regain control of the country.
They released a statement after the attack through a spokesman on Twitter. “It is an act against the interests of Afghanistan and the region,” it read. “Repeating such actions will damage the available opportunities.”
Counter-terrorism experts believe the death of al-Zawahiri to be a blow to Al-Qaeda, even though they concede that it won’t damage the group’s day-to-day operations.
“Zawahri was far more important strategically than tactically to Al Qaeda,” said Colin P. Clarke, an analyst at the Soufan Group in New York City. ”
He led the group through turbulent times, including the Arab Spring and the rise of the Islamic State. He kept the organization afloat, and its affiliates and franchise groups still took strategic direction from him, even if they became more autonomous over time.”
Photo: Maher Attar / Getty