9/11 Mastermind Killed in Kabul by Drone Strike
President Joe Biden has announced the killing of al Qaeda mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan.
The White House announcement on Monday, Aug. 1, came less than two hours after a senior US official briefed reporters to say the 71-year-old Egyptian terrorist leader was assassinated on Saturday by a targeted aerial drone strike in Kabul.
Biden said al-Zawahiri’s death was his decision, and he gave the order to kill him a week ago, “when conditions were optimal.” He insisted none of the man’s relatives were harmed in the attack and there were no civilian casualties.
“Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said from the White House, the Washington Monument in the background.
Although the 2011 slaying of Usama Bin Laden garnered global headlines, counterterrorism experts long considered al-Zawahiri the true architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,996 people, mostly Americans, at New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.
In his brief address to the nation, Biden also blamed al-Zawahiri for the 2000 bombing of the US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer Cole in Yemen and the 1998 terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that left 224 people dead and more than 5,000 others wounded.
The killing of al-Zawahiri came roughly a year after a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in the face of a Taliban onslaught that left 11 US Marines, a US Navy corpsman, and a US Army soldier dead.
Taliban militias have long supported al-Zawahiri and other al Qaeda terrorists on the FBI’s most wanted list.
The Egyptian terrorist formally took over the organization immediately after Bin Laden’s killing.
In a briefing before the president’s address, the senior White House official indicated that al-Zawahiri died while standing on a balcony of a safe house controlled by the Haqqani Network, a militia that’s both part of the Taliban government and marked a terrorist group by the US State Department.
That would mark a clear violation of the Doha Agreement inked in 2020 that guides Washington’s relations with the Taliban regime in Kabul.
Afghan Islamic Press reported Sunday that the Taliban government said “a rocket hit a house in the area, causing no losses.”
The mission to kill al-Zawahiri drew widespread praise from Republican leaders.
“This is an important accomplishment,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a prepared statement. “All Americans will breathe easier today knowing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, has been eliminated. This strike should be a message to terrorists near and far: if you conspire to kill Americans, we will find and kill you.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham took to the social media platform Twitter to congratulate the Biden administration “and all those brave Americans involved in the successful counterterrorism operation against al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.”
“This is a significant event in the War on Terror,” the South Carolina Republican continued. “All those involved have delivered a strong message that America never forgets. Unfortunately we have learned that killing terrorists like bin Laden, al-Baghdadi, and al-Zarqawi doesn’t end terrorism.”
Biden said US intelligence agencies had been on the heels of al-Zawahiri during the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, but spies had located him earlier this year in downtown Kabul, where the terrorist leader had gone to reunite with relatives.
That set into action the planning to assassinate him, Biden said.
“The United States did not seek this war against terror,” Biden added. “It came to us. And we answered it with the same principles and resolve that have shaped us for generation upon generation: to protect the innocent, to defend liberty, and we keep the light of freedom burning for the entire world, because this is the great and defining truth about our nation and our people.”
“We do not break,” the president continued. “We never give in. We never back down.”
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