President Joe Biden said US intelligence officials tracked Zawahiri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family.

Zawahiri was killed in a US strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, the biggest blow to the Al Qaeda group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
Zawahiri was killed in a US strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, the biggest blow to the Al Qaeda group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. (AFP)

President Joe Biden has announced that Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in Kabul, an operation he said delivered justice and hopefully “one more measure of closure” to families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The president said on Monday's evening address from the White House that US intelligence officials tracked Zawahiri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family.

Zawahiri and the better-known Osama bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks that brought many ordinary Americans their first knowledge of Al Qaeda.

Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, in an operation carried out by US Navy SEALs after a nearly decade-long hunt.

As for Zawahiri, Biden said, “He will never again, never again, allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven because he is gone and we’re going to make sure that nothing else happens.”

“This terrorist leader is no more,” he added.

The operation is a significant counterterrorism win for the Biden administration just 11 months after American troops left the country after a two-decade war.

READ MORE: Al Qaeda leader dispels rumour of his death via video message

CIA's drone strike

The strike was carried out by the CIA, according to five people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. Neither Biden nor the White House detailed the CIA's involvement in the strike.

Biden, however, paid tribute to the US intelligence community in his remarks, noting that “thanks to their extraordinary persistence and skill” the operation was a success.

Zawahiri's death eliminates the figure who more than anyone shaped Al Qaeda, first as bin Laden’s deputy since 1998, then as his successor.

Together, he and bin Laden turned the movement’s guns to target the United States, carrying out the deadliest attack ever on American soil — the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings.

The house Zawahiri was in when he was killed was owned by a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, according to a senior intelligence official. The official also added that a CIA ground team and aerial reconnaissance conducted after the drone strike confirmed Zawahiri’s death.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the operation on condition of anonymity said “zero” US personnel were in Kabul.

READ MORE: Why the Taliban will allow Al Qaeda to stay in Afghanistan

'Taliban violated Doha agreement'

The Taliban "grossly" violated the Doha Agreement by hosting and sheltering Al Qaeda's top leader Ayman al Zawahiri, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

"In the face of the Taliban’s unwillingness or inability to abide by their commitments, we will continue to support the Afghan people with robust humanitarian assistance and to advocate for the protection of their human rights, especially of women and girls," Blinken said in a statement.

Over the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the US targeted and splintered Al Qaeda, sending leaders into hiding. But America’s exit from Afghanistan last September gave the group the opportunity to rebuild.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies