US President Joe Biden has announced that a United States drone strike killed Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri at a hideout in Kabul,
Biden in a speech from the White House.declared that “justice had been delivered” to the families of the 9/11 attacks.
Zawahiri’s assassination is the biggest blow to Al-Qaeda since US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 and calls into question the Taliban’s promise not to harbour militant groups.
It was the first known over-the-horizon strike by the US on a target in Afghanistan since Washington withdrew its forces from the country on August 31 last year, days after the Taliban swept back to power.
In a somber televised address, Biden said he gave the final go-ahead for the high-precision strike that successfully targeted Zawahiri in the Afghan capital over the weekend.
“Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said, adding that he hoped Zawahiri’s death would bring “closure” to families of the 3,000 people killed in the United States on 9/11.
A senior administration official said Zawahiri was on the balcony of a house in Kabul when he was targeted with two Hellfire missiles, an hour after sunrise on July 31, and that there had been no US boots on the ground in Afghanistan.
Zawahiri, who just turned 71 years old, was a close ally and personal physician of Osama bin Laden.
According to Biden, Zawahiri “was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11, one of the most responsible for the attacks that murdered 2,977 people on American soil. For decades, he was the mastermind of attacks against Americans.”
“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,” he added.
The American leader noted that the US will continue to protect its citizens from harm and will take out whoever poses a threat to it (US) regardless of how long it takes.
Zawahiri’s execution comes 11 years after the US killed Osama bin Laden.
He was in downtown Kabul where he was reuniting with his family and was killed in what a senior administration official described as “a precise tailored airstrike” using two Hellfire missiles.
The Saturday drone strike was conducted at 9:48 p.m. ET following Biden’s authorisation after weeks of meetings with his cabinet and key advisers.
No American personnel were on the ground in Kabul at the time of the strike, an official said.
Biden had last year ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan thereby allowing the Taliban to take over the war-torn state.