This still image obtained Sept. 10, 2012 from IntelCenter shows Ayman al-Zawahiri speaking from an undisclosed location in an Al-Qaeda's as-Sahab video titled "The Lion of Knowledge and Jihad: Martyrdom of al-Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi. AFP photo/IntelCenter.
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.
President Joe Biden speaks from the Blue Room balcony of the White House on Aug. 1, 2022, in Washington, DC. Biden announced that over the weekend, US forces launched an airstrike in Afghanistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri, 71, took over leadership of al-Qaeda in 2011, shortly after American forces killed Osama bin Laden. The president said there were no civilian casualties in the attack. Photo by Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images.
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.
Somalis hold placards as they demonstrate against the Al Shebab Somali rebel group's announcement that they will offically join the Al Qaeda Islamic militant network, in Mogadishu, on Feb.15, 2012. Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the union between the two terror groups in a video message posted on jihadist forums on Feb. 9, 2012. Photo by Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP via Getty Images.
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."
Armed masked men stand guard as terrorist Usama bin Laden (center) and Ayman Al-Zawahiri (left) address a news conference May 26, 1998, in Afghanistan. Getty Images photo.
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."
Osama bin Laden (left) sits with his adviser, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ,during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. In the article, which was published Nov. 10, 2001, in Karachi, bin Laden said he had nuclear and chemical weapons and might use them in response to US attacks. He was lying. Photo by Visual News/Getty Images.
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.”
Editor's note: This is a breaking story and Coffee or Die Magazine will continue to add to it.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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