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Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in US strike in Afghanistan

Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a US$25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Reuters
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This file image grab provided by the SITE Intelligence Group on Feb 9, 2012 shows Al Qaeda's chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announcing in a video-relayed audio message posted on jihadist forums that Somalia's extremist Shebab fighters have joined ranks with Al Qaeda network. Photo: AFP
This file image grab provided by the SITE Intelligence Group on Feb 9, 2012 shows Al Qaeda's chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announcing in a video-relayed audio message posted on jihadist forums that Somalia's extremist Shebab fighters have joined ranks with Al Qaeda network. Photo: AFP

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Joe Biden said on Monday, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a US$25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the US carried out a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday morning at 6.18am local time.

"Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more," Biden said in remarks from the White House. "We never back down."

US intelligence determined with "high confidence" that the man killed was Zawahiri, a senior administration official told reporters. No other casualties occurred.

"Zawahiri continued to pose an active threat to US persons, interests and national security," the official said on a conference call. "His death deals a significant blow to Al Qaeda and will degrade the group's ability to operate."

There were rumours of Zawahiri's death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health.

His death raises questions about whether Zawahiri received sanctuary from the Taliban following their takeover of Kabul in August 2021. The official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in the city.

The drone attack is the first known US strike inside Afghanistan since US troops and diplomats left the country in August 2021. The move may bolster the credibility of Washington's assurances that the US can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

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