Members of the dreaded terror group Haqqani network tried to conceal that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was at a safe house in Kabul where he was killed in a precision US drone strike and restricted access to the site, a media report said on Tuesday.
The American drone strike killed al-Zawahiri, a key plotter of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who took over as the leader of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan in 2011, at a safe house in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden announced on Monday.
Al-Zawahiri, 71, was the No. 2 in al-Qaeda when the group conducted the September 11 terror attacks, and American officials considered him a central plotter. While he lacked the charismatic leadership of bin Laden, he profoundly shaped al-Qaeda and its terrorist movements with his writing and arguments.
"After the US drone strike that killed al-Zawahiri, members of the terror group Haqqani network had tried to conceal that the al-Qaeda leader was at the house in Kabul, which reportedly was owned by a top aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani, and restricted access to the site,” The New York Times reported.
The report citing a senior administration official said that according to one American analyst, the “house that was struck was owned by a top aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani,” who is now the interior minister in the Taliban government in Kabul.
The Haqqani network is an Islamist terror outfit founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who emerged as a top Afghan warlord and insurgent commander during the anti-Soviet war.
The report added that the United States had “multiple intelligence threads” confirming that al-Zawahiri was killed in the strike. Al-Zawahiri was long believed to have been living in Pakistan.
“That he was killed in Kabul is a testament to not only the porous border between the two countries but also to Al Qaeda’s decades-long use of facilities, houses, buildings and compounds throughout both countries,” the report said, citing a US official.
“And unlike the relatively sleepy city of Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Bin Laden was killed by a commando raid in 2011, his successor apparently spent the last weeks of his life right smack in the Afghan capital,” it said.
The report further said that American intelligence sources had learned earlier this year that al-Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and grandchildren had relocated to a house in Kabul.
“American intelligence agencies grew increasingly confident that al-Zawahiri was at the house as well.
As they did in the case of Bin Laden, intelligence officials used different sources and methods to build a so-called pattern of life that confirmed his presence,” the report said, quoting officials.
“Once al-Zawahiri arrived at the location, American officials were never aware of him leaving, and he was observed for sustained periods on the balcony where he was ultimately struck,” it said.
Al-Zawahiri was killed by an R9X, a “Hellfire missile armed with long blades aimed at killing targets with kinetic energy to minimize major collateral damage.” With al-Zawahiri's death, all of top plotters of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are now either dead or captured.
The FBI updated its "Most Wanted Terrorist" poster on Monday with al-Zawahiri's status: "Deceased." The US claims that the Taliban violated the peace agreement by letting al-Zawahiri into the country. The Taliban claims the US violated the peace agreement by conducting a strike.