Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan, United States President Joe Biden has said.
Al-Zawahiri was killed on Sunday in the biggest blow to the group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
“Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said in a special address from the White House.
Intelligence had located al-Zawahiri’s family in Kabul earlier this year, Biden said, adding that no civilians or members of Al-Zawahiri’s family had been killed in the attack.
An Egyptian surgeon with a $25m reward on his head, al-Zawahiri helped coordinate the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Earlier, US officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said the CIA carried out a drone attack in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, using two missiles.
Al-Zawahiri was on his balcony at the time, they said.
“It’s a significant blow,” Colin Clarke, research director at the Soufan Group, a global security firm, told Al Jazeera, adding that his presence in Kabul was also interesting in what it suggested about his relationship with the Taliban.
“It tells us he’s gotten far more comfortable over the past years since the Taliban took over,” Clarke said.
The Taliban confirmed the attack in Kabul, and condemned it as a “violation of international principles”.
A US official said earlier that al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul was a “clear violation” of the ‘Doha Agreement’ that Washington and the Taliban signed in 2020.
That deal paved the way for the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces in return for a guarantee from the Taliban not to allow groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) to operate on Afghan soil. The US forces withdrew just before an August 31 deadline in what turned out to be a chaotic exercise, ending the longest war in US history.