US President Joe Biden declares that ‘justice has been delivered’ after an al-Qaeda leader is located and killed in Kabul.
Al-Zawahiri was killed on Sunday in the biggest strike on the group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
“Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden announced in a special televised address from outside the White House.
Intelligence had found al-Zawahiri’s family in Kabul earlier this year, Biden revealed, stating that no members of the family or civilians had been killed in the strike.
An Egyptian surgeon with a $25m bounty on his head, al-Zawahiri assisted in coordinating the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US that killed almost 3,000 people.
Previously, US officials speaking on the condition of anonymity informed reporters that the CIA carried out a drone attack in Kabul using two missiles. Al-Zawahiri was on his balcony at the time, they said.
“It’s a significant blow,” Colin Clarke, research director at the Soufan Group, a global security firm, informed Newsmen, stating that his presence in Kabul was also interesting in what it suggested about his relationship with the Taliban.
“It tells us he’s gotten far more comfortable over the past year since the Taliban took over,” Clarke said.
The Taliban confirmed the strike in Kabul, and berated it as a “violation of international principles”.
The attack was carried out on a residential house in the Sherpur area of Kabul, a diplomatic enclave where many Taliban leaders live now, Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid disclosed in a statement.
“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and are against the interests of the US, Afghanistan and the region,” Mujahid said.
In a press release, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul “grossly violated the Doha Agreement and repeated assurances to the world that they would not allow Afghan territory to be used by terrorists to threaten the security of other countries”.
Washington and the Taliban signed the deal in 2020, creating the way for the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces in return for a guarantee from the Taliban not to permit groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) to operate on Afghan soil. The US forces withdrew just before an August 31 deadline in what turned out to be an unlawful exercise.
Blinken said by permitting the al-Qaeda leader to shelter in Afghanistan, the Taliban had also “betrayed” the Afghan people and “their own stated desire for recognition from and normalization with the international community”.
Reporting from Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Ali Latifi said the drone strike took place in a “highly residential area of Kabul”.
“It’s near a grocery store, near a bank, and a main street. It is an area where previous warlords, governors and ministers have lived under the previous government. It is not anywhere hidden,” he said.
“That raises the question of how the current leader of al-Qaeda could walk into Kabul without the government knowing and that’s what the US is alluding to when they say this is in violation of the Doha agreement,” he added, stating that the Taliban also blamed the US for violating the Doha deal.