Published: 22:14 BST, 1 August 2022 | Updated: 23:08 BST, 1 August 2022
A U.S. strike this week weekend in Afghanistan killed top leader Ayman al-Zawahri, the Associated Press reported.
Current and former officials began hearing Sunday afternoon that al-Zawahri had been killed in a drone strike by the CIA in Kabul, but the administration delayed releasing the information until his death could be confirmed, sources told the AP.
It was the United State’s most significant strike against al Qaeda since the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Biden, who remains in isolation after a rebound case of covid, will make the address from the first floor balcony off the blue room of the White House at 7:30 pm ET.
‘Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan. The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties,’ a senior administration official said.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command, was on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list. There was a $25 million reward for information leading directly to him.
Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone attack in Kabul this weekend
Al-Zawahiri was Bin Laden’s No 2 in Al-Qaeda, the radical jihadist network once led by the Saudi millionaire. The two are seen above in this September 2006 file photo
President Joe Biden will address the nation Monday night about a successful counterterrorism operation regarding al Qaeda
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of ‘international principles.’
Al-Zawahiri, 71, took over al-Qaeda after bin Laden’s death in 2011, when bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011.
In 1998, he was indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
Both he and bin Laden escaped U.S. forces in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Zawahiri’s whereabouts had long been a mystery. Rumors have spread since late 2020 that al-Zawahiri had died from illness.
But he appeared in a new video in April, where he denounced the ‘enemies of Islam.’
Before April, Al-Zawahiri last appeared in a video last year marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, months after rumours spread that he was dead.
In that video, he proclaimed ‘Jerusalem will never be Judaized’ and praised al-Qaeda attacks – including one that targeted Russian troops in Syria in January 2021. SITE said al-Zawahiri also noted the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan 20 years after the invasion.
Al-Zawahiri’s FBI poster, the FBI offered a $25 million reward for information on him
Al-Zawahiri was born in Egypt in 1951 and worked as a surgeon. He grew up in an upper-class neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a prominent physician and grandson of famous scholars.
An Islamic fundamentalist, al-Zawahiri joined the outlawed Egyptian Islamic Jihad group as a teenager, being jailed twice for helping plot assassinations of two Egyptian leaders.
He eventually became the group’s leader, which was dedicated to the creation of an Islamic state in Egypt, and in the 1980s he joined Mujahedeen fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
There he befriended and joined forces with bin Laden, becoming his personal physician.
He formally merged his group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, with al Qaeda in 1998.
The two men later issued a fatwa, or decree, that said: ‘The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation for every Muslim.’