U.S. Officials Say Drone Strike in Afghanistan Killed al Qaeda Leader Ayman al Zawahiri

U.S. Officials Say Drone Strike in Afghanistan Killed al Qaeda Leader Ayman al Zawahiri #Officials #Drone #Strike #Afghanistan #Killed #Qaeda #Leader #Ayman #Zawahiri Welcome to Lopoid

WASHINGTON—U.S. congressional officials said a drone strike in Afghanistan killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a founding member of the jihadist movement and one of the key strategists behind an international campaign of terror that culminated in the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

The strike was carried out in a residential area in central Kabul on Sunday morning. It was the first known counterrorism operation in the country since U.S. forces withdrew last year. The officials who spoke to the Journal on condition of anonymity included congressional staffers and current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the strike.

The Taliban seized power during America’s last two weeks in the country after two decades of war.

“Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan,’’ the White House said in a statement Monday. “The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties.”

The White House said no civilian casualties resulted from the strike. It said more details would be provided in a briefing later on Monday.

Zabiullah Mujahid,

the Taliban’s chief spokesman, said an airstrike occurred on Sunday July 31 in Kabul’s central Sherpur district. Since then, Taliban authorities have concluded it was a U.S. drone strike. Mr. Mujahid didn’t say whether there were casualties, nor did he detail who lived there.

Zawahiri, 71, was an Egyptian national and longtime deputy of al Qaeda founder

Osama bin Laden.

Zawahiri was deeply shaped at a young age by President

Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s

crackdown on the Islamist movement, including the execution of Sayyid Qutb, a leading and radical member of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1966. A devout young man whose family had long engaged in opposition politics in Egypt, Zawahiri was a supporter of Qutb, and shared his puritanical desire for a society guided by religion.

He spent the rest of his life pursuing that through terrorism, first with attacks inside Egypt before expanding his attacks to the U.S.

The Taliban’s Mr. Mujahid condemned the strike.

“Such actions are repetitions of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and are against U.S., Afghanistan and the region’s interests,” Mr. Mujahid said in a statement.

The last U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan one year ago killed out 10 civilian members of an Afghan family in the final week of its presence in the country. The casualties included seven children. The operation was initially described as successful. The U.S. later admitted the target was a mistake.

Under the terms of the agreement signed with the Trump administration in February 2020, the Taliban vowed to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a haven for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to plan attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

But the Taliban didn’t explicitly commit to continuing operations to target the group or to break ties with them.

The United Nations has since reported that the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain closely connected.

The U.N. said in a July report that Al Qaeda appeared to enjoy a more settled period in 2022, and that leader al-Zawahiri had provided regular video messages providing near-current proof of life. That coincided, the report said, with the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan.

The report said the two likely successor to the former al Qeada leader would Saif al Adel, a former Egyptian military officer, a veteran jihadist and a confident of Zawahiri and Abdul al Rahaman al Meghrabi, Zawahiri’s son-in-law and the recent leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The fact that he was killed in Kabul is direct evidence that he was there with the support of the Taliban. He wasn’t hiding in the mountains of northern Afghanistan. He was in the heart of Kabul,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

After the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government a year ago, U.S. intelligence officials estimated it would be one to two years before Al Qaeda could reconstitute itself enough to pose a potential threat to the U.S.

In recent months, however, U.S. officials have said they saw little sign that the group, decimated by years of U.S. airstrikes and raids, posed an imminent threat.

There was no known immediate response from Al Qaeda.

Afghanistan Under Taliban Rule

Write to Jessica Donati at jessica.donati@wsj.com and Nancy A. Youssef at nancy.youssef@wsj.com

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