Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan.
- Al-Zawahiri was Osama bin Laden's number two
- Biden, who remains in isolation after a rebound case of covid, will make the address from the first floor balcony off the blue room of the White House
- 'Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan,' a senior official said
- 'The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties,' the senior administration official noted
- Al-Zawahiri was on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list with a $25 million reward
- Al-Zawahiri, 71, took over al Qaeda after bin Laden's death in 2011
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan this weekend in a mission that took six months to plan.
President Joe Biden will formally announce the death of the top al Qaeda leader in an address to the nation on Monday night.
Current and former officials began hearing Sunday afternoon that al-Zawahiri had been killed in Kabul, but the administration delayed releasing the information until his death could be confirmed, sources told the Associated Press.
It was the United State's most significant strike against al Qaeda since the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Al-Zawahiri replace bin Laden as the terrorist group's top leader.
Biden, who remains in isolation after a rebound case of covid, will make the address from the first floor balcony off the blue room of the White House at 7:30 pm ET.
Al-Zawahiri was on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list. There was a $25 million reward for information leading directly to him.
Timeline of Biden's operation to take out al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
Sept. 11, 2001 - Attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Al-Zawahiri is Osama bin Laden's top deputy
May 2, 2011 - Successful US operation to take out bin Laden at compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
2011 - Al-Zawahiri succeeds bin Laden following the successful U.S. operation to take out world's top terror leader
US intelligence over several months gains 'increased confidence' terror leader's family has relocated to a safe house
Early April - Top security staffers are informed of 'developing intelligence'
Shortly thereafter, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan briefs President Biden
US officials develop 'pattern of life' for Al-Zawahiri
Al-Zawahiri arrives at the safe house location; US not aware of him ever leaving after he arrived
Al-Zawahiri continues to crank out videos attacking the US and allies
US investigates 'construction and nature of of the safe house' and building integrity so strike could kill the terror leader without endangering civilians
Officials undertake operation to determine identity of all the people in the safe house
Officials 'systematically eliminated all reasonable options' other than a strike.
Officials series of 'close-hold' briefing to vet intelligence
'Key' agencies brought into the process to make sure information is 'rock solid' and develop alternatives and minimize risks to civilians
During the last few weeks of this period, Biden convenes several meetings with advisors and cabinet members to scrutinize intelligence
May and June - Biden receives updates
July 1 - Biden is briefed on a proposed operation in the White House Situation Room by key members of his cabinet. Attending are CIA Director William Burns, counterterrorism experts, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Finer
Biden examines a model that was constructed of the safe house inside the Situation Room
Biden requests further information on building plans and likely effects of a strike
Directs intel community to prepare impact analyses. Asks intel to consider risks to Mark Randall Frerichs, an American who disappeared in Afghanistan in 2020, impact on future access to Afghan air space, and on efforts to evacuate Afghan partners
June and July - Principals and deputies convene in Situation Room multiple times to 'test the intelligence picture'
'Tight circle' of agency lawyers confirms legal basis. They conclude al-Zawahiri is a lawful target.
Biden asks all present for their view. 'All strongly recommended approval of this target'
July 25 - Biden convenes advisors and key cabinet for final meeting on updated intel. Asks again about other options, the layout of rooms, and impacts.
At the end of the meeting, Biden 'authorized a precise tailored airstrikes on the condition that have strike minimize, to the greatest extent possible the risk of civilian casualties.'
July 30, 9:48 pm EDT - US undertakes 'precision counterterrorism operation in Kabul' to take out al-Zawahiri
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of 'international principles.'
Al-Zawahiri was killed by two hellfire missiles fired from CIA drones as he stood on the balcony of his safe house in downtown Kabul.
The strike was conducted on a residential house in Kabul’s Sherpur area, a wealthy downtown neighborhood where several Taliban government officials live.
The house that was struck was owned by a top aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the first deputy leader of Afghanistan. He is close to senior al Qaeda officials and is wanted by the FBI for questioning.
The strike was carried out in the early morning hours of Sunday Kabul time – 6:18 am there and 9:48 pm Saturday night in the States after U.S. intelligence officials learned al-Zawahiri moved to Afghanistan in th last year.
‘This year we identified that al-Zawahiri family his wife, his daughter, and her children relocated to a safe house in Kabul,’ a senior administration official told reporters on a background briefing call.
He was never seen leaving that safe house, the official said.
The official said only al-Zawahiri was killed and Taliban officials removed his family from the safe house ‘to another location consistent with a broader effort to cover up that they had been living in the space.’
‘Al-Zawahiri family members were present in other parts of the safe house at the time of the strike, and were purposefully not targeted and were unharmed,’ the official said.
Biden was first briefed on Al-Zawahiri’s location on July 1. The official described their intelligence as ‘rock solid.’
The official said Biden asked ‘detailed questions’ on their intelligence, examined a model of the house that intelligence officials built and brought into the Situation Room for him to see, and asked about the possibility of civilian casualties.
On July 25th, Biden made the decision to authorize the strike.
‘He was particularly focused on ensuring that every step had been taken to ensure the operation would minimize that risk. And he wanted to understand the basis upon which we had confidence in our assessments. The President requested further information on the building plans and about likely effects of a strike,’ the official said.
Biden was in isolation with his rebound case of covid when the strike was carried out but was kept informed when it began and when it ended, the official noted.
The Biden administration also made clear they expect the Taliban to abide by the terms of the Doha agreement, which outlined the terms for the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that al-Zawahiri’s presence in the Afghan capitol city was a ‘clear violation’ of the agreement.
‘Obviously this is a very important point for us to make clear that follow up on that we expect them to abide by the terms of the Doha agreement, and the presence of al-Zawahiri in downtown Kabul with a clear violation of that,’ the official said.
‘Going forward with the Taliban, we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions,’ the officials. ‘We will take action to protect our interests, pursuant to the terms of the agreement, which is firm that it al Qaeda should never be allowed to re-establish itself in Afghanistan.’
It was the first attack in Afghanistan since American forces left last year. It took six months to plan.
Al-Zawahiri, 71, took over al Qaeda after bin Laden's death in 2011, when bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011.
In 1998, he was indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
On August 7, 1998, nearly simultaneous bombs blew up in front of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in Africa - 224 people died in the blasts, including 12 Americans, and more than 4,500 people were wounded.
Both he and bin Laden escaped U.S. forces in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Zawahiri's whereabouts had long been a mystery. Rumors have spread since late 2020 that al-Zawahiri had died from illness.
Al-Zawahiri was born in Egypt in 1951 and worked as a surgeon. He grew up in an upper-class neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a prominent physician and grandson of famous scholars.
An Islamic fundamentalist, al-Zawahiri joined the outlawed Egyptian Islamic Jihad group as a teenager, being jailed twice for helping plot assassinations of two Egyptian leaders.
He eventually became the group's leader, which was dedicated to the creation of an Islamic state in Egypt, and in the 1980s he joined Mujahedeen fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
There he befriended and joined forces with bin Laden, becoming his personal physician.
He formally merged his group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, with al Qaeda in 1998.
The two men later issued a fatwa, or decree, that said: 'The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation for every Muslim.'
But he appeared in a new video in April, where he denounced the 'enemies of Islam.'
Before April, Al-Zawahiri last appeared in a video last year marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, months after thee rumours spread that he was dead.
In that video, he proclaimed 'Jerusalem will never be Judaized' and praised al-Qaeda attacks – including one that targeted Russian troops in Syria in January 2021. SITE said al-Zawahiri also noted the US military's withdrawal from Afghanistan 20 years after the invasion.