After more than 20 years of trying to kill terrorists, the US killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike on Saturday.
Labeled by US officials as Osama bin Laden’s number-two, al-Zawahiri, 71, was a key planner of the September 11 terrorist attacks and took over as leader of the notorious terrorist group after bin Laden’s death in 2011.
At 6:18 a.m. local time in the United States and 9:48 p.m. Saturday, the Afghan safe house where the elderly terrorist was hiding was attacked on Sunday morning.
The pre-dawn attack saw al-Zawahiri killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone deployed by the CIA, as he stood on the balcony of a safe house in downtown Kabul.
The Egyptian-born jihadist apparently proceeded to delay the landing, as US intelligence officials noted that he often gave the drone enough time to attack.
The mission, officials said, The plan took six months to formulate — but served as the culmination of a much broader, carefully coordinated operation to track down and kill the al Qaeda chief who had successfully evaded the U.S. armed forces up to this point.
The drone strike comes more than 11 years after bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, following a nearly decade-long manhunt for the 9/11 mastermind.
After more than 20 years of trying to kill the terrorist, the US killed Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike on Saturday.
Labeled by US officials as Osama bin Laden’s number-two, al-Zawahiri, 71, was a key planner of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and took over as leader of the notorious terrorist group after bin Laden’s death in 2011.
An Egyptian born into a comfortable family in Cairo in 1951, al-Zawahiri first came on the authorities’ radar in the 90s, after bin Laden formed the terror group in 1988 – of which al-Zawahiri was already a member at the time.
The two terrorists reportedly met sometime in the late 1980s, when al-Zawahri was sheltering the Saudi billionaire in caves in Afghanistan from the Soviet bombings that were common in the region.
In 1998, he was named as bin Laden’s assistant, as he began to appear. Al-Qaeda held news conferences alongside Saudi nationals airing anti-American sentiment and calling on other like-minded Muslims to join their cause.
the same year, Al-Zawahiri, 47, was charged with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
The August 7 attack saw almost simultaneous bombings outside the embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injuring more than 4,500.
A user on Twitter posted an image from the scene of the strike against al-Zawahiri in Kabul
At the time, al-Zawahri, radicalized after hundreds of militants were tortured in Egyptian prisons after Islamic fundamentalists assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, strengthened the terror group by merging his group with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. which he started in the 80s.
He then secretly helped reform the group in his home nation, avoiding all Egyptian intelligence, until it was discovered. Cells of followers around the world.
After years of quietly amassing suicide bombers, funds and plans, al-Zawahri, bin Laden and many others would carry out the infamous September 11 attacks, putting him and other conspirators at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list.
While in hiding, al-Zawahri will work to ensure that al-Qaeda members avoid weapons worldwide – while rebuilding the group’s shattered leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, and serving as the supreme leader of branches in Iraq. , Asia, Yemen,
In this 1998 photo, Ayman al-Zawahri, left, listens during a news conference with Osama bin Laden in Khost, Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leader Al-Zawahri was killed in a US airstrike on Saturday
In the years that followed, al-Zawahri and bin Laden would take credit for a series of attacks across Europe and Africa, as the US military successfully captured many of the alleged masterminds of the 9/11 plot..
Despite relentless attacks and efforts that included a combination of missile and drone strikes, al-Zawahri bin Laden managed to both successfully evade US forces and hide elsewhere in the Middle East.
It would be nearly a decade before US armed forces were able to track down at least one of the terrorist group’s elusive top members, with a group of US Navy SEALs successfully capturing bin Laden, 54, at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
It was at this point that al-Zawahiri assumed leadership of the group immediately after his friend’s death.
Al-Zawahiri was bin Laden’s No. 2 in al-Qaeda, the radical jihadist network once led by the Saudi billionaire. The two are seen above in a September 2006 file photo
US intelligence would learn over the course of several months from an ‘increasingly confident’ source that the terrorist leader’s family had moved to an unspecified safe house somewhere in the Middle East.
Another clue to the al-Qaeda kingpin’s whereabouts wouldn’t come for another decade after the terror boss was rumored to have died of an illness in 2020.
Those rumors were put to bed, however, the following year, on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when al-Zawahiri appeared in a video where he celebrated the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan 20 years after the attacks.
In that video, he declared that ‘Jerusalem will never be Jewish’ and praised al-Qaeda attacks targeting Russian forces in Syria in January 2021.
Al-Zawahiri’s FBI wanted poster – there was a $25 million reward for his information
The sudden location provided US officials with no clues as to where al-Zawahiri was hiding – although, seven months later, top US security officials were reportedly informed of ‘intelligence developments’ that he and his family had returned to Afghanistan.
The breakthrough came in April after U.S. officials learned the terrorist leader’s wife, daughter and children had moved into an al-Qaeda safehouse in Kabul — which was struck over the weekend.
Authorities eventually determined that al-Zawahri was also at the home – setting into motion a plan that would see authorities build a scale model of the multi-storey, terraced property.
That model would eventually be brought before President Joe Biden in the White House Situation Room, who would plot the attack along with several senior security officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, knowing that al-Zawahri was partial to staying home. balcony.
The group then painstakingly built a ‘pattern of life’, as one official put it, for the terrorist leader, and said on Monday that they He was convinced he was on the balcony when the missiles flew.
In this television image from Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden, right, listens to his top aide Ayman al-Zawahri speaking at an undisclosed location, in this image made from an unidentified videotape broadcast by the station on April 15, 2002.
Within the administration, a small group of officials at key agencies, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, were allowed into the highly classified planning process.
During this period, while the US investigates the ‘construction and nature of safe houses’ and building integrity so that strikes can kill targets without endangering civilians, al-Zawahiri will continue to crack videos attacking the US and its allies.
After some time, US authorities, after confirming the identities of all those inside, ‘systematically eliminated all reasonable options’ except a strike.
‘Key’ agencies, the officials said, were then brought into the process to ensure that intel was ‘rock solid’ before finally conducting the top-secret operation.
In the last few weeks of the term, Biden called several meetings with advisers and cabinet members to review intelligence and analyze various updates on the situation at hand.
On July 1, President Joe Biden – pictured announcing the success of the strike on Monday – was briefed in the Situation Room about the operation, and closely examined a model of the al-Zawahri hideout. He gave the final approval for Operation Four. a few days ago
On July 1, Biden was briefed on the operation in the Situation Room, and closely examined a model of the house where al-Zawahri was hiding. He gave the final approval for the operation on Thursday.
As US officials had planned, the jihadist was standing on the balcony of his hideout during the dawn attack.
“We make it clear again tonight: 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,” Biden said Monday, announcing the attack. Success to the nation.
Hours later, a statement from Afghanistan’s Taliban government confirmed the airstrike, but did not mention al-Zawahri or any other casualties.
It “strongly condemns this attack and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Accord,” the 2020 US agreement with the Taliban that saw the withdrawal of US troops.
“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experience of the past 20 years and are against the interests of the United States, Afghanistan and the region,” the statement said.
Afghanistan’s Taliban government confirmed the airstrike, but did not mention al-Zawahri, pictured here in 2006, or any other casualties.