WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden announced Monday evening that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan over the weekend.
“I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield,” Biden said in live remarks from the Blue Room Balcony at the White House. “There were no civilian casualties.”
Al-Zawahiri, 71, became head of al-Qaeda in 2011 after its longtime leader Osama bin Laden was shot and killed by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan during a raid.
Biden’s announcement came nearly a year after the U.S. military completed a withdrawal from Afghanistan that it invaded in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks carried out in 2001 by al-Qaeda operatives against targets on American soil, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
“He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11,” Biden said of al-Zawahiri. “He coordinated al-Qaeda’s branches and all around the world, including setting priorities for providing operational guidance that called for and inspired attacks against U.S. targets.”
A senior administration official briefed reporters that the drone strike was conducted in Kabul on Sunday morning with hellfire missiles that targeted and killed al-Zawahiri, who was standing on the balcony of a safe house.
Preparation for the operation was said to have taken months. Biden gave the final authorization on July 25 while quarantined at the White House due to a COVID-19 infection, according to the official.
Over 929,000 people have died in the post-9/11 wars due to direct war violence, and several times as many due to the reverberating effects of war, showed figures from the Costs of War Project at Brown University.
The U.S. federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over 8 trillion U.S. dollars, which have also been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties in the United States and abroad, the project found.