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US Drone to Kill Zawahiri Used Pak Airspace, Flew From a Middle-Eastern Country: Source | Exclusive

By: Manoj Gupta

News18.com

Last Updated: August 02, 2022, 17:20 IST

New Delhi, India

In this television image from Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden, right, listens as his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri speaks at an undisclosed location. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera/APTN, file)

In this television image from Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden, right, listens as his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri speaks at an undisclosed location. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera/APTN, file)

The United States had given the advance notice for airspace permission and route of the drone. The source, however, added that Pakistan was possibly not aware of the target -- al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

The United States used the airspace of Pakistan, considered Afghanistan’s friend, for its covert operation to kill al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who played a key role in the 9/11 attacks and later created the group’s affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, in Afghanistan’s Kabul, a top intelligence source told News18 exclusively.

The source confirmed the US drone flew from a friendly Middle-Eastern country, most probably the United Arab Emirates (UAE), using Pakistan’s airspace.

Zawahiri was standing on the balcony of a safe house when a drone fired two missiles at him. Zawahiri’s other family members were present, but only the terror mastermind was killed in the mission.

The United States had given the advance notice for airspace permission and route of the drone.

The source, however, added that Pakistan was possibly not aware of the target.

PLANNING THE PRECISION STRIKE

The US planned to kill Zawahiri over a period of several months. The CIA officials who were involved in the mission, according to the Associated Press, constructed “a pattern of life” and knew that Zawahiri liked sitting on the balcony of his building, which is located in Kabul’s Sherpur area.

Once his daily routine was established by the officials, they presented it to US president Joe Biden in the White House’s Situation Room weeks before the attack.

The officials were also aware that the Haqqani Taliban network provided the housing to Zawahiri and his family in Kabul. The AP reported that Zawahiri’s family along with him started living in the house once the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021.

People familiar with the developments told CNN-News18 that the building is close to Iranian and Turkish embassies.

After the US officials confirmed these details, they took more months to formulate an action plan. Several independent teams of analysts were brought on-board to ensure that nearby civilians and infrastructure was not be targeted.

Another official familiar with the developments said that the now deceased al-Qaeda leader’s identity was verified on multiple occasions and for sustained periods of time before getting approval for the attack.

The plans were first formed in early April when two senior national security officials were first briefed on the intelligence. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan was then apprised of the developments. Over the next two months, a small group of officials of the US government vetted the intel and devised options for Biden.

ALSO READ | Two Presidents, Two Al-Qaeda Leaders & Similar Strikes: How US Followed Bin Laden’s Blueprint to Kill Ayman al-Zawahiri

Biden, when apprised of the developments in July, shortly after he returned from his Europe trip, bombarded CIA Director William Burns, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and National Counterterrorism Centre director Christy Abizaid, regarding the accuracy of the data presented to him.

Biden made it clear that the attack should not lead to results like the 2021 drone attack that ended up killing civilians in Kabul. He also said that Afghans who helped the US should not be in jeopardy.

Biden gave the go-ahead after July 25, while he was recovering from Covid.

CLOSURE FOR KIN OF 9/11 VICTIMS

“(Ayman al-Zawahiri) carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens. Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” US president Joe Biden said.

The slain terrorist took over as the al-Qaeda chief following the death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011. Both were responsible for plotting the 9/11 attacks and became US’s most wanted terrorists.

ALSO READ | Al-Qaeda Chief Killing: As US Strikes Off Another Name in Most Wanted List, A Look at Top Terrorists Killed, Those Still at Large

Biden further added that Zawahiri’s death would bring closure to the families of the victims of 9/11 attacks.

He also reminded citizens that Zawahiri was the mastermind of several other terrorist attacks, including the suicide bombing of the USS Cole naval destroyer in Aden in October 2000 in which 17 US soldiers were killed.

“No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out. We shall never waver from defending our nation and its people,” Biden said.

WHO WAS ZAWAHIRI?

Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was once an eye surgeon, helped in the founding of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. He was appointed al-Qaeda chief after Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces in May 2011.

ALSO READ | Al-Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri: ‘The Doctor’ who Terrorized the World

The chief ideologue of the terrorist group was also referred to as Osama’s right hand man. Security experts believe Zawahiri played an operative role in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

Ayman al-Zawahiri released several videos during his time as chief of al-Qaeda with an aim to recruit more Muslims to the terrorist group.

He also came out in support of a female student in Karnataka who protested against the hijab ban in educational institutions of the state and in a video read out a poem praising her actions.

With Agency Inputs

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first published:August 02, 2022, 16:35 IST
last updated:August 02, 2022, 17:20 IST