President Joe Biden announced Monday night, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed over the weekend in a U.S-led counterterrorism operation.
“He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats, and American interests,” President Biden said in his brief remarks from the White House balcony. “Now, justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more.”
The president said that al-Zawahiri was killed in Kabul.
“After relentlessly seeking Zawahiri for years under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump, our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year,” Mr. Biden said. “He had moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family.”
Often referred to as the chief ideologue of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri as a young doctor in a Cairo slum in 1980 encountered a visitor to his clinic with an offer – a chance to treat Islamic fighters battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
That encounter changed his life for ever, leading him to the top brass of the most dreaded terrorist group in the world, al-Qaeda.
The strike was a result of careful, patient and consistent work by counterterrorism officials over the course of months and years, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday evening.
The president said that after he considered “clear and convincing evidence” of al-Zawahiri’s location, he “authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield once and for all.” He gave his final approval to “go get him” one week ago.
Al-Zawahiri was eliminated by a drone on Saturday night, while he was on the balcony of the safehouse, and his family members were in different rooms of the house.
“None of his family members were hurt and there were no civilian casualties,” the president said.
The U.S. government says no one else was killed in the strike, according to the senior administration official.
The senior administration official said the president received regular updates as the U.S. government zeroed in on al-Zawahiri. Once the safehouse was located, the president wanted to understand more about the layout of the safehouse’s doors and windows to avoid other casualties. In a July 25 meeting, the president authorized a precise, tailored air strike that would minimise civilian deaths as much as possible, the senior administration official said.
With al-Zawahiri’s death, all of top plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are now either dead or captured.
The FBI updated its “Most Wanted Terrorist” poster Monday with al-Zawahiri’s status: “Deceased.”
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