How Ayman al-Zawahiri’s FAMILY led CIA to world’s most wanted terrorist
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been one of the prime targets of several presidential administrations since even before the Egyptian doctor became a terrorist, he helped master 9/11.
On Monday, the US announced that the 21-year search for one of the world’s most wanted men had ended with a drone strike in Kabul a few days earlier.
The terrorist chief had been tracked by the CIA to a hiding place in Kabul after he transferred his wife, daughter and children to a safe haven in an affluent suburb of the Afghan capital.
A security official told reporters after the attack that it was the Egyptian jihadist’s regular “pattern of life”, with periods where he “stayed” on a balcony in the house overlooking the city.
This allowed agents to tailor an airstrike, specifically to take out al-Zawahiri.
President Joe Biden told the nation after the strike, “Now justice has been done and this terrorist leader is gone.”
In any case, this was the fifth time the CIA has attempted to take out the 71-year-old.
This is the timeline showing how the US government got their man:
Since 9/11 and the US conquest of Afghanistan in 2001, al-Zawahiri is said to have lived in Taliban-friendly areas of Pakistan. His bodyguards sometimes even marry local tribes to cement relationships.
At one point, al-Zawahiri was even suspected of living in Karachi, the Pakistani capital. Although bin Laden’s mentor has been grounded several times since 2001, rumors persisted that he was dead.
In February 2003, officials believed they nearly captured al-Zawahiri when the chief encountered another al-Qaeda figure in Peshawar, Pakistan.
The operation failed because agents did not have a confirmed exact location for the meeting until the day after it took place CNN in 2010.
A year later, an assassination attempt on the terrorist leader failed. The US bombed a mountainous area in Pakistan’s South Waziristan where he was said to be hiding.
Al-Zawahiri was injured in that bombing, but survived.
In 2006, a US bombing raid on an area in the Northwest Frontier Province, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, was a direct attack on the life of al-Zawahiri.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people
Osama Bin Laden, left, was killed in a military strike by US Navy Seals more than a decade before Ayman Al-Zawahiri, right, was killed in a drone strike
Despite rumors that the US had killed Al-Qaeda’s then-deputy commander, he appeared in a video two weeks later saying that “Neither Bush nor all the powers on earth could bring his death one second closer.”
In 2009, a Jordanian doctor named Human al-Balawi killed seven CIA agents after promising them he would lead them to al-Zawahiri.
While meeting with his escorts at a base in Khost, Afghanistan, al-Balawi detonated a suicide vest, killing a total of eight people and injuring six others.
It is not clear whether al-Balawi acted on behalf of al-Qaeda, nor is it clear how often US officials felt they were close to the terrorist leader.
In early 2022, senior intelligence officials in the Biden administration learned that al-Zawahri’s wife, daughter and children had been transferred to a hiding place in Kabul’s Sherpur district.
The area used to be home to Western embassies and charities before the Taliban overthrew the US-backed government in August 2021.
Speaking to the London Times, an employee of an agency formerly based in the Sherpur district said they have been unable to return to their workplace since August 15 last year.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda after the death of Osama Bin Laden, was killed early Sunday in a drone attack on his hiding place in the Afghan capital Kabul.
Another person who lives in the area told the paper: ‘I think there are some prominent people around. Everyone who came to see me was searched and asked questions.’
This gave US intelligence agencies more than suspicion that high-ranking al-Qaeda figures had moved into the area.
In the past 12 months, al-Zawahiri has been featured in videos highlighting that he was the person leading an Islamic revolution and praising Indian Muslim women following a dispute over the wearing of hijabs in the country in a series of videos.
The United Nations reported that the proliferation of video appearances by al-Zawahiri indicated that he had been more emboldened since the Taliban recaptured control of Afghanistan.
Despite depleted numbers in the Afghan capital after the return of the Taliban, the CIA was able to gather reliable enough information to confirm that al-Zawahiri was living in the same house as his family in April.
President Biden was briefed that month by his senior security advisers. From there, the operation to take down the terrorist leader was hatched.
An official told the Times: “We identified Zawahiri several times over extended periods of time on the balcony where he was eventually beaten.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri, can be seen in this still image from a video released on September 12, 2011
The owner of the house has not been named. The Washington Post called him a “top collaborator” of Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.
A 2020 UN report said al-Zawahiri had met with a high-ranking member of the Haqqani network. The same report suggested that the al-Qaeda leader may have returned to Afghanistan, possibly a remote area controlled by the Taliban.
The Haqqani Network is a Sunni Islamist militant organization founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani in the 1980s. The group served as important allies of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet-Afghan war.
May – June 2022
At meetings in May and June, President Biden was briefed on al-Zawahiri’s daily routine and officials concluded he could be killed without any side effects.
Initially, only a few key security advisers and Vice President Kamala Harris attended the meetings.
The Taliban returned to power last year after President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, ending Washington’s 20-year war in the country
In June, a United Nations report confirmed that high-ranking al-Qaeda figures were once again living in Kabul. The UN said the group found “increased freedom of action” in Afghanistan.”
In the weeks leading up to the strike, Biden had expanded meetings to include other cabinet officials who would “examine intelligence’s findings,” according to the Washington Post.
On July 1, Biden held a meeting in the Situation Room with a scale model of al-Zahahiri’s hiding place.
The last meeting on the subject involving the president was held on July 25. Also attending the meeting were CIA Director Avril Haines, Adviser William Burns and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
All three were on board with the plan, and Biden gave it a go. Prior to that meeting, the CIA continuously monitored al-Zawahiri’s daily movements, according to… the New York Times.
The Times report suggests that al-Zawahiri had become untidy and despite not leaving his home, he did not change his routine.
At dawn on Sunday at 6:18 am, al-Zawahiri was killed by two R9X ‘Ninja’ Hellfire missiles fired from a CIA MQ-9 Reaper drone hovering over Kabul.
After his death, the family of the late al-Qaeda leader was relocated from the area. They were in a different part of the house when the strike happened.
Satellites and a CIA ground team were able to successfully identify al-Zawahiri as dead in the wake of the strike, the report said. the Washington Post.
During an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, Biden’s national security adviser Jake O’Sullivan said, “There was no one on the ground in uniform when this attack occurred.”
He also said the government is “in direct communication with the Taliban about this, and I’m not going to telegraph our next steps, but the Taliban understand very well that the United States is going to defend its interests.”