According to a U.S. person involved with the operation, top al-Qaida figure Ayman al-Zawahri was killed in a U.S. attack in Afghanistan over the weekend.
The official, who was not authorised to make public statements, said that the CIA was responsible for the strike.
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The strike was not immediately confirmed by the White House. The announcement of a successful counterterrorism operation on a “major” al-Qaida target in Afghanistan is what President Joe Biden will be making Monday night, though.
Osama bin Laden learned from al-Zawahri, and the two collaborated to plan the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Eventually, he succeeded bin Laden.
The president, who is still confined to the White House while battling a recurrence of COVID-19, spoke at 7:30 p.m. ET, in accordance with a last-minute change to the president’s schedule.
An administration official reported that over the weekend, the US carried out “a counterterrorism operation against a substantial” al-Qaida target in Afghanistan. “The operation was a success, and no civilians were hurt.”
Long-serving U.S. counterterrorism officials played down the significance of the attack, claiming that al-Zawahri had never really filled the void left by the killing of al-founder Qaida’s and leader, Osama bin Laden, who had brought together numerous terrorist organizations under the al-Qaida banner in the late 1990s.
With at least five affiliates now operating largely independently of one another and the “core al-Qaida” elements still residing in Afghanistan, al-Qaida lacks the same top-down organizational structure that it did before bin Laden’s death more than ten years ago, according to Javed Ali, a senior National Security Council counterterrorism official in the Trump administration who has tracked al-Zawahri and other al-Qaida leaders for decades.
“While al-Zawahri had taken over the reins a decade ago, he never possessed the same prestige as bin Laden. This is a continuation of the ongoing U.S. attempt to dismantle al-Qaida leadership over the last 20 years. Ali, who spent 16 years in senior national security roles at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI, described him as more of a caretaker than a visionary.
US strike in Afghanistan kills top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri; Biden to speak Monday night
U.S. authorities never gave up looking for al-Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor and eye surgeon by training who initially served as Osama bin Laden’s instructor when the two met in Afghanistan in the 1990s, despite the fact that he maintained a low profile for the most of the past 25 years.
Al-Zawahri was a master strategist with a thorough knowledge of Islamic theology, and bin Laden served as the group’s public face. The two collaborated for years to expand al-global Qaida’s terrorist reach and capabilities. This includes managing some of its most daring schemes, such as the coordinated attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, which left over 3,000 people dead.
In a 1998 manifesto, al-Zawahri stated that murdering Americans and those who support them “is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in every place in which it is possible.”
Three years later, he was instrumental in aiding bin Laden in organizing the suicide hijackings, which were planned and carried out by a close ally of Pakistan’s, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The 9/11 Commission and other investigation organizations did not place as much emphasis on Al-contribution Zawahri’s to 9/11 as they did on those of Mohammed and bin Laden. However, his command of the sizeable group of Egyptians who had traveled to Afghanistan to join al-Qaida contributed to the assaults’ operational know-how, organizational know-how, and financial know-how. Mohammed Atta, the mastermind and primary hijacker of the 9/11 plan, and many of the top leaders of the group that had sworn loyalty to al-Zawahri were fellow Egyptians.
As the head of the terrorist organization Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was responsible for the 1981 killing of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, al-Zawahri initially had much more clout than bin Laden. He had a lot of clout, Ali told AccurateGist. When they met in Afghanistan, “he was a doctor, he was a thinker, and he was more than 10 years older than bin Laden.”
The U.S. announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan about a year ago, ending the country’s longest war as the Taliban regained control.