WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Monday evening that the U.S. conducted a drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, a revelation expected to degrade the phobia group’s ability to operate.
A senior Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity with a view to share details of the strike, said U.S. intelligence analysts identified al-Zawahiri’s location earlier this yr.
The official said the U.S. watched al-Zawahiri’s movements for months and determined that he was living in a protected house in Kabul along with his family.
“We identified al-Zawahiri on multiple occasions for sustained periods of time on the balcony where he was ultimately struck,” the official said.
“Al-Zawahiri’s members of the family were present in other parts of the protected house on the time of the strike and were purposely not targeted and were unarmed. We’ve no indication that civilians were harmed on this strike,” the official added.
The official said Biden received his final intelligence briefing on the matter on July 25 before approving the strike which involved an unmanned aerial vehicle and two Hellfire missiles.
Al-Zawahiri, 71, a physician and founding father of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad before ascending to the highest ranks within the al-Qaeda network, was one in all the architects behind the devastating Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Within the weeks that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, the Taliban provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda while America mobilized for what would develop into its longest war.
Al-Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden as the top of al-Qaeda in 2011.
Al-Zawahiri was previously indicted by the U.S. government for his alleged role within the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
The State Department had previously offered a reward of as much as $25 million for information resulting in his apprehension.
Sunday’s drone strike is the primary known CIA counterterrorism operation since Kabul fell to the Taliban last yr. The senior administration official said that the U.S. didn’t coordinate the strike or give notice to the Taliban.