AP reports that a CIA drone strike has killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. White House officials declined to confirm he was killed but noted in a statement that the United States conducted a “successful” counterterrorism operation against a significant al Qaeda target, adding that “there were no civilian casualties.”
An American ground team was present in Afghanistan to support the strike and has since pulled out, a senior intelligence official said.
Al-Zawahiri’s loss eliminates the figure who more than anyone shaped al Qaeda, first as Osama bin Laden’s deputy since 1998, then as his successor. Together, he and bin Laden carried out the deadliest attack ever on American soil — the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide hijackings.
Bin Laden provided al Qaeda with charisma and money, but al-Zawahiri brought tactics and organizational skills needed to forge militants into a network of cells in countries around the world.
A statement from Afghanistan’s Taliban government confirmed the airstrike, but did not mention al-Zawahiri or any other casualties. It said it “strongly condemns this attack and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement,” the 2020 U.S. pact with the Taliban that led to the withdrawal of American forces.