Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri Killed in Drone

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The US has killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a drone strike in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has confirmed.

He was killed in a counter-terrorism operation carried out by the CIA in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday.

He and Osama Bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks together, and he was one of America’s most wanted terrorists.

Mr Biden said al-Zawahiri had “carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens”.

“From hiding, he co-ordinated al-Qaeda’s branches and all around the world, including setting priorities for providing operational guidance and calling for and inspired attacks against US targets,” the president said in a live television address from the White House.

“Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” he added.

The FBI updated its Most Wanted Terrorist poster on Monday with Zawahiri’s status: “Deceased.”

The 71-year-old Egyptian doctor took over al-Qaeda after the death of Bin Laden in 2011.

Mr Biden said he had given the final approval for the “precision strike” after months of planning.

Officials said Zawahiri was on the balcony of a safe house when the drone fired two missiles at him.

Other family members were present, but they were unharmed and only Zawahiri was killed in the attack, they added.

  • PROFILE:¬†Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Distinguished family

Born in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on 19 June 1951, Zawahiri came from a respectable middle-class family of doctors and scholars.

His grandfather, Rabia al-Zawahiri, was the grand imam of al-Azhar, the centre of Sunni Islamic learning in the Middle East, while one of his uncles was the first secretary-general of the Arab League.

Zawahiri became involved in political Islam while still at school and was arrested at the age of 15 for being a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s oldest and largest Islamist organisation.

His political activities did not, however, stop him from studying medicine at Cairo University’s medical school, from which he graduated in 1974 and obtained a masters degree in surgery four years later.

His father Mohammed, who died in 1995, was a pharmacology professor at the same school.

Radical youth

Zawahiri initially continued the family tradition, building up a medical clinic in a suburb of Cairo, but soon became attracted to radical Islamist groups which were calling for the overthrow of the Egyptian government.

Mr Biden said Zawahiri’s killing will bring closure to families of the nearly 3,000 victims of the 2001 attacks in which hijackers crashed passenger jets into landmark buildings in New York and Washington – including two skyscrapers in Manhattan.

Some 344 firefighters were also killed. Andrew Ansbro, president of the New York Firefighters Association thanked Mr Biden for “helping to bring another level of closure to all impacted by these attacks”.

Mr Biden said that Zawahiri had also masterminded other acts of violence, including the suicide bombing of the USS Cole naval destroyer in Aden in October 2000 which killed 17 US sailors, and the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 223 people died.