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Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri killed by drone strike, says U.S.

President Joe Biden is expected to speak at 7:30 p.m. ET about a “successful counterterrorism operation” in Afghanistan

August 1, 2022 7:00pm

Updated: August 1, 2022 7:26pm

The United States allegedly killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the key plotters behind the 9/11 attacks, in a drone strike in Afghanistan, according to inside sources.

The U.S. government has yet to confirm al-Zawahiri’s death. However, President Joe Biden is expected to speak at 7:30 p.m. ET about a “successful counterterrorism operation” in Afghanistan, the White House said in a statement.  

"Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan. The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties," a senior administration official said.

Zawahiri, 71, was an international symbol for the group that helped plan the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which left almost 3,000 people dead.

"Those 19 brothers who went out and gave their souls to Allah almighty, God almighty has granted them this victory we are enjoying now," al-Zawahiri said in a videotaped message released in April 2002 about the attack.

Zawahiri succeeded to become al-Qaeda’s leader after the fall of Osama bin Laden in 2011 when was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan. The State Department had offered a reward of up to $25 million for information that could lead to Zawahiri’s capture.

Sunday’s CIA drone strikes are the first known counterterrorism operation in the country since Kabul fell to the Taliban last year.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a series of tweets prior to the reporting of Zawahiri’s death in American news outlets.

“An airstrike was carried out on a residential house in Sherpur area of Kabul City on July 31,” he wrote. "The nature of the incident was not apparent at first," but added that an investigation of the incident by the Islamic “determined that the strike was carried out by an American drone.”

“The strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri is a major success of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. A result of countless hours of intelligence collection over many years,” said Mick Mulroy, a former C.I.A. officer and senior Pentagon official. “He likely believed we would never be able to track him down. But he was wrong.”