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Killing of al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri praised as major win for Joe Biden

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Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2001. Photo: Reuters

Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2001. Photo: Reuters

Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photo: Reuters

Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photo: Reuters

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Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2001. Photo: Reuters

News that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qa’ida, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, in a CIA drone operation over the weekend drew celebration from Democrats and Republicans in the United States as well as from foreign governments.

US President Joe Biden announced the death of one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists in a televised address Monday from a White House balcony, reminiscent of the speech given by president Barack Obama in 2011 when US forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid of the al-Qa’ida founder’s compound in
Pakistan.

The killing of Zawahiri is widely seen as a political win for the Biden administration almost a year after a heavily criticised US withdrawal from the country, which left it under Taliban control and sparked fears that al-Qa’ida could reassert itself there.

The world is a better, safer place

Mr Obama called the news “proof that it’s possible to root out terrorism without being at war in Afghanistan”, adding that he hoped Zawahiri’s death would provide “a small measure of peace to the 9/11 families and everyone else who has suffered at the hands of al-Qa’ida”. 

The Taliban government “strongly condemned the attack”, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, calling the strike a violation of international norms and the agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, by the US and the Taliban in 2020.

But a senior Biden administration official said the terrorist leader’s presence in Kabul constitutes a violation of the Doha deal and that senior members of the Haqqani Taliban faction were aware that Zawahiri was living in the Afghan capital and took steps after the strike to conceal his presence.

Messages of support poured in from US lawmakers shortly after Mr Biden’s address. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the mission “a major accomplishment” for Mr Biden that brought justice to one of the people “who helped orchestrate the cold-blooded murder of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers on 9/11”.

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Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photo: Reuters

Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photo: Reuters

Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photo: Reuters

Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a statement posted on Twitter on Monday evening, similarly credited Mr Biden for approving the drone operation, saying “the world is a better, safer place” without Zawahiri. But Mr McConnell urged the administration to come up with a comprehensive security plan in Afghanistan in light of the fact that Zawahiri appeared to have been living in central Kabul.

Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, wrote on social media that Zawahiri was “a monster responsible for the deaths of thousands around the world”. Two Senate Republicans – Joni Ernst of Iowa and Marco Rubio of Florida – also issued statements late on Monday commending the US military and intelligence community for taking down the terrorist leader.

But Marjorie Taylor Greene, who promoted a conspiracy theory suggesting 9/11 was a hoax, slammed Mr Biden for trying to “act tough on TV”. Ms Greene tweeted that while Zawahiri plotted 9/11 and the bombing of navy destroyer the USS Cole in 2000, “no one in America has been sweating an attack from al Qa’ida lately”. 

Proof that it’s possible to root out terrorism without being at war in Afghanistan

The group 9/11 Families United issued a statement expressing gratitude to US intelligence agencies and the military for the “sacrifices that have been made in removing such evil from our lives”.

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But the news is also a reminder, said group chair Terry Strada, that for full accountability, “President Biden must also hold the Saudi paymasters accountable for killing our loved ones,” referring to allegations that agents of the Saudi Arabian government provided support for the 9/11 plot.

Saudi authorities have repeatedly denied such a link. The 9/11 Commission noted in 2004 that it found no evidence “the Saudi government as an institution or senior officials within the Saudi government funded al-Qa’ida”. 

Following Mr Biden’s address, Saudi Arabia swiftly released a statement welcoming the death of Zawahiri, who it said “led the planning and execution of heinous terrorist operations” that killed innocent people, including Saudi citizens”. The kingdom became the target of al-Qa’ida bombings after 9/11, most notably a 2003 attack in its capital, Riyadh, that killed 11 people. 

© Washington Post


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