Tue, 02 Aug 2022 09:32 AM IST
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the right-hand man of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and the terror group's current chief, was killed in a drone strike near Kabul in Afghanistan on Sunday, confirmed United States (US) President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
"When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I made a decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm," he said in a virtual media briefing.
"I made a promise to the American people that we would continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We've done just that."
WHO WAS AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI?
Zawahiri, 71, was a surgeon from Egypt who carried a $25 million bounty on his head for his role in the 9/11 attacks in the US. A trust loyalist of bin Laden, Zawahiri had evaded the US successfully for 21 years but was eventually killed this weekend.
Born on June 19, 1951, to a comfortable family in a Cairo suburb, Zawahiri was also religious from boyhood. As a young adult, he worked as an eye surgeon but continued to visit different countries in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, where he witnessed the war between the Soviet Union and jihadists.
In Afghanistan, Zawahiri met bin Laden and helped him found al-Qaeda. Zawahiri, who was allegedly tortured in Egypt following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, also merged his group (Egyptian Islamic Jihad or EIJ) with Qaeda and helped the terror group build networks in the middle-east.
ATTACKS ON THE US AND 9/11
As bin Laden'key aide, Zawahiri was directly involved in the August 1998 bombings targeting the US embassies in Tanzania's Dar es Salaam and Kenya's Nairobi. This was after he issued a "fatwa", warning the US that it would carry soon carry out attacks on its embassies on Muslim lands.
Zawahiri, described as the "real brains" of al-Qaeda, also played a key role in the 9/11 attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. A day after the attacks, Zawahiri and bin Laden appeared in a video, warning the US and its allies that a "great army is gathering against" them. The two also urged "the nation of Islam" to take part in the battle against "the Jews, the Christians, and the Americans".
However, after the attacks, Zawahiri went underground after which the US announced a $25 million bounty on his head.
TAKING THE REIGNS OF AL-QAEDA
Following the death of bin Laden in Pakistan, Zawahiri took command of Qaeda. However, under his command, Qaeda couldn't recover its prominence, mainly because of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It also lost its significant territories to ISIS in the middle-east.
Zawahri was killed by the US on Sunday in Afghanistan. According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), he came outside on the balcony of a house in Kabul around the sunrise when the US intelligence it and launched two Hellfire missiles on him that claimed his life. It is suspected that Zawahri lived with his wife and other family members at the safe house in Kabul.