Al-Zawahiri was killed in a precision strike “that would remove him from the battlefield, once and for all,” Biden said.
White House officials said that Al-Zawahiri was sheltering in downtown Kabul to reunite with his family, and was killed in “a precise tailored airstrike” using two Hellfire missiles. The drone strike was conducted at on Saturday July 31, authorized by Biden. Other family members were present, but only Zawahiri was targeted and killed in the attack, officials added.
Al-Zawahiri, alongside Osama Bin Laden, plotted the 11 September attacks together. Since the strike carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that killed bin Laden 11 years ago, he has been the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda.
“Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer,” Biden said.
The killing of the 71-year-old Egyptian comes almost a year after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on the orders of Biden, ending their 20-year military presence there.
In a 2020 peace deal with the US, the Taliban – the militant Islamist organization currently in power in Afghanistan – agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in areas under their control. However, US officials said the Taliban were aware of Al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul. During background briefings, US intelligence officers said Taliban affiliates visited the safe house after the airstrike, attempting to cover up evidence of his presence there.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Taliban had “grossly violated” the peace agreement by sheltering Al-Zawahiri in Kabul.
Originally from Egypt, Ayman Al-Zawahiri worked as a doctor until he was imprisoned in the 1980s for his involvement in militant Islamist movements. After his release, he left Egypt and became involved in international jihadist movements.
Eventually, he settled in Afghanistan and joined forces with Osama Bin Laden, and together they orchestrated the 11 September attacks, in which four civilian aircrafts were hijacked, crashing into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, killing almost 3,000 people.
The current heir to al-Qaeda, Saif al Adel, is believed to be in Iran, according to United Nations reports.