Al-Qaeda leader killed by US airstrike

Al-Qaeda leader killed by US airstrike

The leader of Al-Qaeda, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in the night from Saturday to Sunday in Afghanistan by an American drone strike, American President Joe Biden announced on Monday live.

“On Saturday, on my orders, the United States carried out an airstrike on Kabul, Afghanistan, which killed the emir of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” he said during a speech. short speech from the White House.

“Justice has been served and this terrorist leader is no more,” added Joe Biden.

Zawahiri was one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and the United States promised 25 million dollars for any information allowing him to be found. He had taken the head of the jihadist nebula in 2011, after the death of Osama bin Laden, killed by an American commando in Pakistan.

Untraceable for more than ten years, he was considered one of the masterminds of the attacks of September 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

His death will allow the families of victims killed in the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in New York, and at the headquarters of the Pentagon near Washington, “to turn the page”, declared the Democratic president.

– Two Hellfire missiles –

The drone attack was carried out using two Hellfire missiles and without any American military presence on the ground, said an American official, proof according to him of the United States’ ability “to identify and locate even the most wanted terrorists in the world and to take action to eliminate them”.

Ayman al-Zawahiri had been spotted “multiple times and for long periods of time on the balcony where he was finally hit” in the Afghan capital, he added.

But the building bears no traces of an explosion and no one was injured in the operation. These two elements suggest that the Americans used the Hellfire R9X, a missile equipped with six razor-shaped blades, which slices through its target but does not explode.

Called “Flying Ginsu” after a famous 1980s television advertisement for a brand of kitchen knives, the missile has become the ammunition of choice for killing the leaders of jihadist groups, while avoiding making civilian casualties.

The three-storey house is located in Sherpur, an affluent district of the Afghan capital, where several villas are occupied by high-ranking Taliban officials and commanders. The area was quickly sealed off by armed Taliban early Tuesday morning.

Several residents interviewed by AFP thought the house was empty.

“We haven’t seen anyone living there for almost a year,” said an employee from a nearby office. The house “has always been (immersed) in darkness, without a single light bulb on”.

Others doubted the announcement of the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda.

“I don’t think that’s true. It’s just propaganda,” said Fahim Shah, 66.

“They should show the world that they killed this man and produce proof,” said Abdul Kabir.

– Doha agreement “grossly violated” –

On Sunday, the Afghan interior minister denied reports of a drone strike in Kabul, telling AFP that a rocket had hit “an empty house” in the capital.

Early Tuesday morning in a tweet, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned an “air attack” carried out using “American drones”, without mentioning any casualties or mentioning Zawahiri’s name.

Ayman al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul is also a “clear violation” of the agreements reached in Doha in 2020 with the Taliban, who had pledged not to host Al-Qaeda on their soil, noted the senior official. American.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken added Monday evening that by “harboring and sheltering” Zawahiri, the Taliban “grossly violated the Doha agreement” which provided for the departure of American troops from Afghanistan.

Mr. Zabihullah, for his part, accused the United States of having derogated from these agreements, by conducting a strike on their territory.

“Such actions are a repeat of the failed experiments of the past 20 years and are contrary to the interests of the United States of America, Afghanistan and the region,” he said.

As part of the Doha deal, the Taliban promised not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for international jihad again, but experts say the group never severed ties with al-Qaeda.

– “Aware” –

“What we do know is that senior Taliban officials in Haqqani were aware of his presence in Kabul,” a Biden administration official said.

Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani heads the fearsome Haqqani Network, a brutal subset of the Taliban responsible for some of the worst violence in the past two decades. US officials call this network the right arm of Pakistani intelligence.

On the run since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Zawahiri grew up in a comfortable home in Cairo before turning to radical and violent Islam.

Inheriting a weakened organization in 2011, Ayman al-Zawahiri, 71, had to multiply “franchises” in order to survive, from the Arabian Peninsula to the Maghreb, from Somalia to Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

“The group still faces significant challenges. First, the question of who will lead Al-Qaeda after Zawahiri’s disappearance,” said Colin Clarke, researcher at the American think tank Soufan Group.

Al-Qaeda had lost its number 2, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, in August 2020, killed in the streets of Tehran by Israeli agents during a secret mission sponsored by Washington, information revealed a few months later by the New York Times.

Monday’s announcement comes nearly a year after the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, which allowed the Taliban to regain control of the country twenty years later.

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