How the CIA identified and killed Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri | Inquirer News

How the CIA identified and killed Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri

/ 11:39 AM August 03, 2022
How the CIA identified and killed Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri

Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian linked to the al Qaeda network, during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir (not pictured) in an image supplied by Dawn newspaper November 10, 2001. Hamid Mir/Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

Zawahiri had been in hiding for years and the operation to locate and kill him was the result of “careful patient and persistent” work by the counter-terrorism and intelligence community, a senior administration official told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Until the U.S. announcement, Zawahiri had been rumored variously to be in Pakistan’s tribal area or inside Afghanistan.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official provided the following details on the operation:

FEATURED STORIES

* For several years, the U.S. government had been aware of a network that it assessed supported Zawahiri, and over the past year, following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, officials had been watching for indications of Al Qaeda’s presence in the country.

This year, officials identified that Zawahiri’s family – his wife, his daughter and her children – had relocated to a safe house in Kabul and subsequently identified Zawahiri at the same location.

How the CIA identified and killed Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri

 A photo of Al Qaeda’s new leader, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011. SITE Monitoring Service/Handout via REUTERS TV/File Photo

* Over several months, intelligence officials grew more confident that they had correctly identified Zawahiri at the Kabul safe house and in early April started briefing senior administration officials. Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, subsequently briefed President Joe Biden.

“We were able to build a pattern of life through multiple independent sources of information to inform the operation,” the official said.

Once Zawahiri arrived at the Kabul safe house, officials were not aware of him leaving it and they identified him on its balcony – where he was ultimately struck – on multiple occasions, the official said.

* Officials investigated the construction and nature of the safe house and scrutinized its occupants to ensure the United States could confidently conduct an operation to kill Zawahiri without threatening the structural integrity of the building and minimizing the risk to civilians and Zawahiri’s family, the official said.

* In recent weeks, the president convened meetings with key advisors and Cabinet members to scrutinize the intelligence and evaluate the best course of action. On July 1, Biden was briefed on a proposed operation in the White House Situation Room by members of his cabinet including CIA Director William Burns.

ADVERTISEMENT

How the CIA identified and killed Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri

Taliban fighters drive a car on a street following the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a U.S. strike over the weekend, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 2, 2022. REUTERS

Biden “asked detailed questions about what we knew and how we knew it” and closely examined a model of the safe house the intelligence community had built and brought to the meeting.

He asked about lighting, weather, construction materials, and other factors that could affect the success of the operation, the official said. The president also requested analysis of the potential ramifications of a strike in Kabul.

* A tight circle of senior inter-agency lawyers examined the intelligence reporting and confirmed that Zawahiri was a lawful target based on his continuing leadership of Al Qaeda.

On July 25, the president convened his key Cabinet members and advisors to receive a final briefing and discuss how killing Zawahiri would affect America’s relationship with the Taliban, among other issues, the official said. After soliciting views from others in the room, Biden authorized “a precise tailored air strike” on the condition that it minimize the risk of civilian casualties.

* The strike was ultimately carried out at 9:48 p.m. ET (0148 GMT) on July 30 by a drone firing so-called “hellfire” missiles.

RELATED STORIES

Zawahiri death: did US use secret ‘flying ginsu’ missile?

Ayman al-Zawahiri: from Cairo physician to al Qaeda leader

Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in CIA drone strike in Afghanistan — US officials

Qaeda chief calls for US attacks, economic boycott

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Al qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, CIA, US
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.



© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.