US President Joe Biden has confirmed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.”On Saturday, at my direction, the United States successfully concluded an air strike in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” Mr Biden told reporters at a press conference in Washington, DC, on Tuesday morning (AEST).”Al-Zawahiri was Bin Laden’s leader — he was with him the whole time. He was his No. 2 man, his deputy, at the time of the terrorist attack of 9/11. “He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11, one of the most responsible for the attacks that murdered 2,977.”Mr Biden said since the US “delivered justice” to Bin Laden 11 years ago, al-Zawahiri has been the leader of al-Qaeda, orchestrating attacks “all around the world”.”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.”Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor and surgeon, helped coordinate the September 11 2001 attacks in which four civilian aircraft were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, the Pentagon near Washington and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.One of the US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a drone strike was carried out by the CIA in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday local time.”Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant al-Qaeda target in Afghanistan,” a senior administration official said.”The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties,” the official added.Al-Zawahiri’s death in a CIA drone strike raises questions about whether he was being given sanctuary by the Taliban following their takeover of Kabul in August 2021 as the last US-led troops were leaving Afghanistan after 20 years of war.In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of “international principles”.A loud explosion echoed through Kabul early on Sunday morning.”A house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor. There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor, spokesman of the interior ministry, said earlier.One Taliban source, requesting anonymity, said there had been reports of at least one drone flying over Kabul that morning.This image released by Al-Jazeera in 2001 purportedly shows Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri at an undisclosed location on September 11, 2001. Source: Supplied / Al JazeeraWith other senior al-Qaeda members, al-Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the 12 October 2000 attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.He was indicted in the United States for his role in the 7 August 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.Both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri had eluded capture when US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the United States.Bin Laden was killed in 2011 by US forces in Pakistan.
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