Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the Islamist terrorist outfit al-Qaeda, has been killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan.
Announcing this late Monday, President Joe Biden said Zawahiri, one of the United States’ “most wanted terrorists”, was eliminated in a counter-terrorism operation carried out by the CIA in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Saturday.
“My fellow Americans, on Saturday, at my direction, the United States successfully concluded an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed the emir of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” Biden said in an address to the nation from the White House.
“I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield, once and for all,” Biden said.
He made it clear once again 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.”
Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Zawahiri together declared war on the United States and organized the terrorist attack of 9/11 that killed 2,977 people on American soil.
For decades, Zawahiri was a mastermind behind attacks against Americans, including the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors and wounded dozens more.
He played a key role in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 and wounding more than 4,500 others.
He carved a trail of murder and violence against U.S. citizens, troops, diplomats, and American interests.
Zawahiri took over al Qaeda leadership in June 2011 after Bin Laden was killed.
From hiding, he coordinated al Qaeda’s branches around the world and provided operational guidance that called for and inspired attacks against U.S. targets. He made videos, including in recent weeks, calling for his followers to attack the United States and its allies.
After relentlessly seeking Zawahiri for years under Presidents George Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year. He had moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family, months after the U.S. forces withdrew from the terror-stricken country.
Biden said that “after carefully considering the clear and convincing evidence of his location”, he authorized “a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield once and for all”.
The President added that this mission was carefully planned and rigorously minimized the risk of harm to other civilians. One week ago, after being advised that the conditions were optimal, Biden gave the final approval to carry on with the final attack. None of his family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties in the drone strike, according to Biden.
This is the third successful operation by the Biden administration targeting three key and top-most terrorist leaders this year.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS, was killed in a U.S. military raid in Syria in February. Another key ISIS leader was killed last month.
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