Taliban on Tuesday confirmed the killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a United States drone strike in his Kabul safe house, according to top sources.
The sources told News18 exclusively that the Taliban was negotiating with the AQ leadership to leave the Afghanistan soil.
The Taliban was also asking them not to indulge in terror activities, the sources added.
In between, some Taliban teams also visited Zawahiri and there is a possibility that his location was leaked, said the source.
The drone strike has intensified global scrutiny of Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers and further undermined their efforts to secure international recognition and desperately needed aid.
The Taliban had promised in the 2020 Doha Agreement on the terms of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that they would not harbour al-Qaida members.
Nearly a year after the U.S. military’s chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri’s killing raises questions about the involvement of Taliban leaders in sheltering a mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and one of Americas most-wanted fugitives.
NOT SO SAFE HOUSE?
The safe house is in Kabul’s upscale Shirpur neighbourhood, home to several Taliban leaders who had moved into mansions of former top Afghan officials of the toppled Western-backed government.
The Taliban initially sought to describe the strike as America violating the Doha deal, which also includes a Taliban pledge not to shelter those seeking to attack the U.S. something al-Zawahiri had done for years in internet videos and online screeds. The Taliban have yet to say who was killed in the strike.
Meanwhile, rumours persist of unease in the Taliban ranks particularly between the powerful group known as the Haqqani network, which apparently sheltered al-Zawahiri, and other Taliban figures.
#BREAKING | The home hit under US drone strike belonged to a close aide of Zawahiri
— News18 (@CNNnews18) August 2, 2022
“The killing has raised many questions,” said one Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press as he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly to reporters.
Zawahiri took over as al-Qaida’s leader after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011, in an operation by U.S. Navy SEALs.
“The Taliban were aware of his presence in Kabul, and if they were not aware of it, they need to explain their position,” the official said.
The house where al-Zawahiri stayed was the home to a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. Taliban officials blocked AP journalists in Kabul from reaching the damaged house on Tuesday.
The Haqqani network is an Afghan Islamist insurgent group, built around the family of the same name. In the 1980s, it fought Soviet forces and over the past 20 years, it battled U.S.-led NATO troops and the former Afghanistan government.
Sirajuddin Haqqani has also served as the first deputy leader of the Taliban movement since 2016. Since last August, he also served the appointed interior ministry of the Taliban government. The U.S. government maintains a $10 million bounty on him for numerous significant kidnappings and attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government and civilian targets.
But the Haqqanis, from Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province, have disagreed with others in the Taliban leadership, mostly from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some believe Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures have opposed the Haqqanis’ violent attacks against civilians in Kabul and elsewhere.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, however, alleged the U.S. violated the Doha Agreement by launching the strike.
With Inputs from Associate Press