New Delhi: Al Qaeda top leader and key 9/11 plotter Ayman al-Zawahiri were killed in a drone strike carried out by the United States on July 30, according to US President Joe Biden.
“For decades he was the mastermind behind attacks against Americans,” Biden said on Aug. 1, also noting the 2000 USS Cole attack and the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The New York Times newspaper said, “An American drone strike killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, a key plotter of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who took over as the leader of Al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s death, at an urban safe house in Afghanistan, President Biden announced on Monday night.” The early-morning strike in the heart of downtown Kabul over the weekend capped a 21-year manhunt for an Egyptian radical who more than anyone besides Bin Laden was deemed responsible for the deadliest foreign attack on the United States in modern times and never gave up targeting Americans.
Biden detailed al-Zawahiri’s role in leading al-Qaida since Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in 2011, including calling on followers in recent weeks to attack the U.S. and allies in videos.
“We make it clear again tonight that, that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out,” Biden said.
No one else was hurt in the strike, including al-Zawahiri’s family, who were elsewhere in a safe house, and there were no civilian casualties. It is a significant blow to al-Qaida.
The official said that Biden was briefed on the proposed operation, and he convened a meeting on July 25 with key cabinet members and top officials for a final briefing on the intelligence assessment. A US newspaper said there was unanimous support to strike the target and Biden authorised a “tailored” airstrike to minimise civilian casualties a US newspaper said.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician and theologian, had served as bin Laden’s deputy before taking over Al Qaeda in 2011. The two men fought together in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Zawahiri helped found Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Al-Qaida never regained its status as the pre-eminent terrorist organisation after bin Laden’s death and faced newer, more brutal rivals, such as the Islamic State.
In April 2002, Ayman Al Zawahiri, spoke on the hijab controversy in Karnataka and asked Muslims in the subcontinent to fight “intellectually, using the media and with weapons on the battlefield”. In an almost nine-minute video released by Al Qaeda mouthpiece, Al-Sahab media Zawahiri praised the student Muskan Khan who raised Islamic slogans after being heckled by a right-wing mob.
BBC describing the profile of Ayman al-Zawahiri said that he was often referred to as the chief ideologue of al-Qaeda. An eye surgeon who helped found the Egyptian Islamic Jihad militant group, he took over the leadership of al-Qaeda following the killing by US forces of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011.
Before that, Zawahiri was considered Bin Laden’s right-hand man and believed by some experts to have been the “operational brains” behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Zawahiri was number two – behind only Bin Laden – on the 22 “most wanted terrorists” list announced by the US government in 2001 and had a $25m (£16m) bounty on his head.