'This terrorist is no more' al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri killed by US drone strike in Afghanistan

'This terrorist is no more' al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri killed by US drone strike in Afghanistan
The US has carried out a sucessful drone operation which killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri over the weekend, Joe Biden announced, hoping it would give closure to victims of 9/11 and their families
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The target was identified as Ayman Al-Zawahri [Getty]

The United States has announced that it killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike target in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden announced said Monday.

"Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant al Qaeda target in Afghanistan. The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties," a senior US official said in a cryptic message with a confirmation that Biden was to address the nation at 7:30pm ET.

The target was later on identified as al-Zawahiri, 71. President Joe Biden was due to speak on television hours after the announcement, the White House said, delivering "remarks on a successful counterterrorism operation."

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The White House said there were no civilian casualties.

Biden spoke from the balcony of the White House Blue Room as he remains in isolation in the residence while he continues to test positive for Covid-19.

In his address, he said he hoped that the US killing of al-Zawahiri will help bring "closure" to families of those killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"Justice has been delivered" he spoke of the US strike killing al-Zawahiri; "this terrorist leader is no more."

"It is my hope that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure," he added.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the US announcement that al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed the announcement by US President Joe Biden of the targeting and killing of al-Zawahiri," it said in a statement.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attack took place on Sunday and the ruling Islamist extremists strongly condemned it as a violation of “international principles" and the 2020 agreement on a US troop withdrawal.

The news comes a week before the first anniversary of the final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, leaving the country in the control of the Taliban insurgency that fought Western forces over the preceding two decades.

His death is likely to lead to greater disarray within al-Qaeda than bin Laden’s death in May 2011 did, since it is far less clear who his successor at the head of the terror network would be.

Al-Zawahiri more than anyone shaped al-Qaeda, first as Osama bin Laden’s deputy since 1998, then as his successor. Together, he and bin Laden turned the militant movement’s guns to target the United States, carrying out the deadliest attack ever on American soil — the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon made bin Laden America’s Enemy No. 1. But he likely could never have carried it out without his deputy. Bin Laden provided al-Qaida with charisma and money, but al-Zawahiri brought tactics and organizational skills needed to forge militants into a network of cells in countries around the world.

Their bond was forged in the late 1980s, when al-Zawahiri reportedly treated the Saudi millionaire bin Laden in the caves of Afghanistan as Soviet bombardment shook the mountains around them.