Came from a distinguished Egyptian family, grandfather Rabia’a al-Zawahiri imam at al-Azhar University in Cairo, great-uncle Abdel Rahman Azzam first secretary of the Arab League
Washington/Kabul: Al-Qaeda’s reclusive emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, who played a key role in the 9/11 attacks and later formed the group’s regional affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, has been killed in a US drone strike in Kabul.
Zawahiri, who assumed the leadership of al-Qaeda after the death of bin Laden, was killed in a drone strike carried out by CIA on Saturday evening at a house in a posh locality in the Afghan capital where he was sheltering to reunite with his family, US President Joe Biden said, declaring that “justice has been delivered and this terrorist is no more.”
The 71-year-old Egyptian surgeon, on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, had a USD 25 million bounty on his head, was bin Laden’s second-in-command during 9/11 attacks and took over as the head of al-Qaeda after his killing.
According to officials, Zawahiri was on the balcony of a safe house in Kabul when the drone fired two Hellfire missiles at him. Other family members were present, but they were unharmed.
Zawahiri comes from a distinguished Egyptian family, according to the New York Times.
His grandfather, Rabia’a al-Zawahiri, was an imam at the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo. His great-uncle, Abdel Rahman Azzam, was the first secretary of the Arab League.
He played central role in the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and eventually helped to mastermind the deadliest terror attack on American soil, when hijackers turned US airliners into missiles.
In September 2014, Zawahiri had announced the creation of Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate – the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), taking advantage of sanctuaries in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“A new branch of Al-Qaeda was established – Qaeda al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad,…and return the Islamic rule across the Indian subcontinent,” Zawahiri had said at the time.
The al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate was led by Asim Umar – an Indian and former member of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. Umar was killed in a joint US-Afghan military raid in the Afghan Province of Helmand in September 2019.
In April, Zawahiri’s 8.43-minute video clip was released by the terror group online in which he had praised a Karnataka college student for confronting a group of students opposing hijab in her college in early February.
However, the girl’s father distanced himself from Zawahiri’s comments, terming them as “wrong” and said he and his family were living peacefully in India.
Meanwhile, the Taliban condemned the drone attack that killed Zawahiri.
Taliban senior spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attack occurred on a residential home in the Sherpur area of Kabul, a diplomatic neighbourhood where several Taliban commanders currently reside.
Zawahiri made his public debut as a Muslim militant when he was in prison for his involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.