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Ayman al-Zawahiri: Al-Qaida chief killed in US strike

Ayman al-Zawahri took over al-Qaida's leadership following the death of Osama bin Laden

Ayman al-Zawahri took over al-Qaida's leadership following the death of Osama bin Laden

Al-Qaida's top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden said on Monday.

Al-Zawahiri had led al-Qaida since the militant group's founder Osama bin Laden was killed in a US operation in Pakistan in 2011.

"Justice has been delivered," Biden said after confirming earlier reports that al-Zawahiri was killed. "This terrorist leader is no more."

Biden said that he hoped al-Zawahiri's killing brings "one more measure of closure" to families of the September 11, 2001, victims.

What do we know about the US operation?

The US carried out the strike over the weekend, but delayed releasing the information until his death could be confirmed, officials said earlier on Monday.

Biden confirmed that the counterterrorism operation was "successful'' and that "there were no civilian casualties.''

According to the US president, al-Zawahiri had moved to Kabul to reunite with his immediate family. "None of his family members were hurt," Biden said.

"No matter where you hide, the United States will find you and take you out," he added.

The AP news agency earlier quoted a US intelligence official as saying that the house where al-Zawahri was during the strike was owned by a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

What did Afghan officials say?

Over the weekend, the Taliban's Interior Ministry initially denied reports of a drone strike in Kabul.

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said early Tuesday that an "aerial attack" was carried out on a residence in the Sherpur area of the capital.

"The nature of the incident was not revealed at first. The security and intelligence agencies of the Islamic Emirate investigated the incident and found in their preliminary investigations that the attack was carried out by American drones," Mujahid wrote on Twitter.

Who is Ayman al-Zawahiri?

The Egyptian surgeon was identified as one of the masterminds of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The al-Qaida chief was born in 1951 to a prominent upper-class family in Cairo.

As a teenager, he joined the banned Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood.

He was among hundreds arrested and accused of involvement in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Although he was cleared of the charge, he spent three years in an Egyptian prison on charges of weapons possession — an experience that is said to have further radicalized him.

He traveled to Afghanistan after his release, where he got to know bin Laden and participated in the battle against Soviet troops.

Al-Zawahiri, a medical doctor, is believed to have forged a strong bond with bin Laden in the late 1980s when he treated him in the caves of Afghanistan amid Soviet bombardment.

He rose to become second-in-command of al-Qaida in 1998.

Since the killing of bin Laden by US forces in 2011, al-Zawahiri topped the list of most-wanted fugitives by the FBI, with a $25 million (€24.3 million) bounty on his head.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

fb/rs (AP, Reuters, AFP)