Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri killed in US airstrike

al-Zawahri had previously been rumoured to be dead but appeared in a video last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the attack.

However, his return to Kabul – where he was hiding out in a safe house for months – raises questions about the Taliban’s commitment to keeping Al-Qaeda out of the country.

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said al-Zawahri’s presence in the capital was a breach of the Doha agreement, which paved the way for the withdrawal of all NATO troops from Afghanistan, and also contained a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in areas under Taliban control.

President Joe Biden speaks about the death the of Al-Qaeda leader.Credit:AP

“We expect them to abide by the terms of the Doha agreement, and the presence of al-Zawahri in downtown Kabul is a violation of that. Going forward, we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions,” the official said.

Al-Zawahri was killed on the balcony of the safe house in Kabul at 9.48pm Saturday night (US time). Senior officials discovered earlier this year that he was at the safe house with his, prompting a small number of key intelligence officials to start planning the counter-terrorism operation.

Biden was briefed on the proposed mission on July 1 by key members of his cabinet including CIA Director William Burns, Director of National Intelligence of Avril Haines and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Osama bin Laden, right, listens as his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri speaks at an undisclosed location, in this image made from undated video tape broadcast in 2002.

Osama bin Laden, right, listens as his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri speaks at an undisclosed location, in this image made from undated video tape broadcast in 2002.Credit:AP

The president was briefed again on July 25 again, quizzing officials about the potential for civilian deaths, the impact the mission would have on the US relationship with the Taliban and America’s efforts to access Afghanistan for future counterterrorism missions.

“One week ago, after being advised the conditions were optimal, I gave the final approval,” Biden said. “The mission was a success. His family members were not hurt and there were no civilian casualties.

“The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. Now we make it clear again tonight that 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.”

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