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What We Know about the Death of the Leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Despite the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the United States killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Kabul .

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Photo: Hamid Mir

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Todo lo que se sabe de la muerte del líder de Al-Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri

At the beginning of 2021, the world's newspapers were covering the failed US military exit from Afghanistan. After his passage, the Taliban came to power and since then they are in charge of the Government and security.

This is why one of the main doubts after the US withdrawal was going to be the treatment between the Taliban and terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. Years ago, the United States accused the Taliban regime of complicity and of protecting the leaders of the group that Osama bin Laden led at the time. That is why in 2001 troops allied to the United States launched an invasion of the Central Asian country.

The Death of Ayman al-Zawahiri

It was the US president, Joe Biden, who confirmed the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the top leader of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. The operation was carried out with a drone attack, when al-Zawahiri was on one of the balconies of his house in a neighborhood of Kabul, the Afghan capital. Two high-precision Hellfire missiles were enough to end the life of one of the most wanted men on the planet.

According to US intelligence, the terrorist lived in the house since the beginning of this year with his family (daughter, wife, and grandchildren). They had moved from Pakistan. According to sources, the missiles did not affect the house and that is why the US president has highlighted that the operation did not leave any civilian victims.

Who was al-Zawahiri?

Ayman al-Zawahiri was born in Egypt in 1951, he studied medicine, but it is known that he joined the Muslim Brotherhood (an ultra-religious Egyptian group that many consider radical Islamist) when he was 14 years old. He spent 3 years in prison and after being released, in 1980, he traveled to Afghanistan to join the mujahideen against the Afghan government and the support of the Soviets. It is believed that after meeting bin Laden, Al Zawihiri's tactics of attacking secular regimes in Muslim countries influenced his Saudi friend. It is considered that this was decisive for the founding of Al-Qaeda.

He is considered to have masterminded the attack on a US destroyer in Yemen in 2000 and coordinated the attacks on the Twin Towers of September 11, 2001, in addition to many other terrorist attacks in Egypt, Pakistan and many other countries.

After the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the Egyptian assumed the leadership of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri has been reduced to a shadowy leader of an increasingly diminished terrorist group. In recent years, the terrorist leader has dedicated himself to fleeing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has appeared in sporadic videos to reaffirm his survival, speaking of Islamic current affairs.

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What Lessons Did the Death of al-Zawahiri Leave Behind?

In the first place, it makes it clear that the Taliban regime either has a passive attitude towards terrorist groups, or it does not have sufficient capacity to be able to track down and capture one of the United States' military objectives.

In the past, both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have gone from being allies to enemies and back again, making the relationship between the two groups ambiguous and unstable. It is not possible to know with certainty the attitude that the Afghan Government has with these other groups.

On the other hand, it is important to highlight the condition that Joe Biden seems to have placed on the current operation. According to White House sources, who have communicated with international media, the attack on al-Zawahiri was only authorized after Biden considered all the options and learned of the conditions of the house. It would seem that the apparent attack without any civilian casualties was not a coincidence, but rather one of the conditions set by the US president. For several weeks, intelligence knew with certainty the location of the terrorist leader, the housing infrastructure and al-Zawahiri's routine.