Al Qaeda leader killed by US drone strike in Afghanistan, US media reports

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed by a US airstrike in Afghanistan, according to US media reports.

US president Joe Biden is set to deliver an address to the nation at 7:30pm in Washington D.C.(12.30am UK time).

A senior official in his administration said: “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.”

Mr Biden is due to speak from the balcony off the White House Blue Room as he remains in isolation in the residence while he continues to test positive for COVID-19.

The death of al-Zawahiri would be the biggest blow to al Qaeda since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in 2011.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a drone strike was carried out by the CIA in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday.

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of “international principles”.

Speaking on 31 August 2021, after the last US troops left Afghanistan, Mr Biden said the US would not let up on its fight against terrorism in that country or elsewhere.

“We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries,” he said.

“We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it.”

Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, with Osama bin Laden in image that emerged in November 2001
Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, with Osama bin Laden in image that emerged in November 2001

Previewing the strike that would occur 11 months later, Mr Biden said at the time: “We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground – or very few, if needed.”

Al-Zawahiri was one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks in which four passenger aircraft were hijacked and flown into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

The terror attack left nearly 3,000 people dead on 11 September 2001.

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