The United States has killed the top Al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan in a drone strike over the weekend, President Joe Biden said in remarks Monday.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over Al Qaeda after the death of Osama bin Laden, was killed in the strike, Biden said.
“My fellow Americans, on Saturday at my discretion, the United States successfully concluded an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed the amir of Al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri,” he said.
The New York Times, NBC News and Politico previously reported the strike, citing U.S. officials.
Al-Zawahiri is believed to be one of the central planners behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was a physician and founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad before taking over the top ranks of the Al Qaeda network.
“Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan,” a senior Biden administration official said on condition of anonymity. “The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties.”
The strike is the first attack in Afghanistan since American forces left last year. U.S. officials said the strike was not conducted by the military but was carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency.
“The strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is a major success of U.S. counterterrorism efforts,” Mick Mulroy, a former C.I.A. officer and senior Pentagon official, told the New York Times. “A result of countless hours of intelligence collection over many years. He likely believed we would never be able to track him down,” Mulroy said. “But he was wrong.”
A statement from the Taliban condemned the operation.
“The security and intelligence agencies of the Islamic Emirate investigated the incident and found that the attack was carried out by American drones,” the translated tweet from Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Majuhid said. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns this attack on any pretext and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement.”
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