Updated: Wed, 03 Aug 2022 11:48 AM IST
Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, the right-hand man of Osama bin Laden, was killed in a drone strike at his residence in Afghanistan's capital Kabul over the weekend, confirmed United States (US) President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
"I authorised a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield, once and for all," US President Joe Biden said on Monday in a speech from the White House.
al-Zawahiri's death is a huge setback for Qaeda, which has been trying to re-establish itself following the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). His death will also impact the group's position in the sub-continent, especially in India, where it has been trying to spread its wings.
Quoting top government officials, news agency PTI reported that Zawahiri's death is a "big blow" to al-Qaeda supporters and affiliates in India. They said that his killing will affect the morale of Qaeda supporters and cadres in India.
Recently, they were conducting waves of propaganda campaigns and trying to rebuild the al-Qaeda organisational machinery in India, officials privy to the developments told PTI. His killing may also adversely hamper the momentum of its regional affiliates like the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), they said.
It must be noted Zawahiri on several occasions had drawn parallels between Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine. In April, he warned India over the hijab controversy in Karnataka. Two months later, he also threatened to carry out suicide bombings in Delhi, Mumbai, and Uttar Pradesh.
However, officials expressed concerns over the Taliban sheltering Zawahiri in Kabul, saying such facilities may also be extended to terror outfits mainly targeting India. They told PTI that Taliban may also extend support to Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
An imminent concern for India is the fact that disenchanted al-Qaeda cadres may shift their allegiance to the Islamic State and its regional affiliate Islamic State -Khorasan Province (ISKP).
Considering the field operational capabilities of ISKP to mount spectacular attacks, any possible tilt from Qaeda ranks to IS warrants a serious attention, officials said.
Saif al-Adl, who is likely to succeed Zawahiri, is a veteran field expert who spearheaded infamous attacks, including the bombings in the US embassy in Kenya (1998). It is assessed that unlike Zawahiri, Saif al-Adl may organise more field campaigns for al-Qaeda to remain relevant and also to counter the attrition of its members to the Islamic State, they said.
(With inputs from PTI)