(CNN) — The United States successfully killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Zawahiri, who had just turned 71, remained a visible international symbol of the group, 11 years after the United States killed Osama bin Laden.
At one point he acted as Osama bin Laden’s personal physician.
Zawahiri came from a distinguished Egyptian family, according to The New York Times. His grandfather, Rabia’a al-Zawahiri, was an imam in the al-Azhar University in Cairo. His great-uncle, Abdel Rahman Azzam, was the first secretary of the Arab League.
The United States Department of State offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading directly to Zawahiri’s capture.
A United Nations report of June 2021 it suggested that he was somewhere in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that he might be too weak to appear in the propaganda.
President Joe Biden will make remarks tonight at 7:30 pm on “a successful counterterrorism operation” from the Balcony of the Blue Room, the White House said Monday.
“Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a major Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan. The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties,” according to a senior administration official.
A Taliban spokesman claims the US carried out a drone strike on a residence in Kabul
In a series of tweets, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said: “On July 31, an airstrike was carried out on a residential house in the Sherpur area of Kabul city.”
He said “the nature of the incident was not apparent at first”, but the Islamic Emirate’s security and intelligence services investigated the incident and “initial findings determined that the attack was carried out by a US drone.
Mujahid’s tweets were published before CNN reported that the United States successfully targeted and killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Mujahid said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan “strongly condemns this attack on any pretext and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement.”
He said that actions like these “are a repetition of the failed experiences of the last 20 years and go against the interests of the United States of America, Afghanistan and the region.”
He closed by saying that he was repeating “such actions will damage” the opportunities available.
Biden says attack on Zawahiri was the result of ‘extraordinary persistence and skill’ by intelligence community
President Joe Biden said Monday that this weekend’s precision attack on al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was the result of “extraordinary persistence and skill” by the US intelligence community.
“Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year: He moved to downtown Kabul to meet with members of his immediate family,” Biden said in a prime-time address to the nation from the balcony of the Blue Room of the White House. “After carefully considering the clear and convincing evidence of his location, I authorized a precision strike that would take him off the battlefield once and for all.”
Saturday’s mission “was carefully planned to rigorously minimize the risk of harm to other civilians,” Biden said, and was approved just a week ago.
The attack comes just a year after Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, prompting Taliban forces to quickly take control of the country.
“When I ended our military assignment in Afghanistan nearly a year ago, I made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm. And I promised the American people that we will continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We have done exactly that,” Biden said Monday.
CNN’s DJ Judd contributed to this report