Taliban claim ‘no knowledge’ of slain Al Qaeda leader Al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan
The Taliban said Thursday they are investigating what they describe as “claims” that al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri was killed in a US drone strike in the Afghan capital.
However, the group maintained in a statement that it “is not aware of the arrival and residence” of al-Zawahri in Afghanistan.
The statement marked the first time the Taliban addressed Sunday’s drone strike that killed the head of the al-Qaeda network on the balcony of a safehouse in Kabul that US officials said had ties to a Taliban leader.
The assassination of al-Zawahri has further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, especially as they urgently seek cash to deal with an economic catastrophe there following the US withdrawal from the country. year ago.
The Taliban had promised in the 2020 Doha agreement with the US that they would not harbor al-Qaeda members or those who wanted to attack the US
In Thursday’s statement, the Taliban appeared to allay those concerns.
They said they have “ordered the investigative and intelligence services to conduct serious and comprehensive investigations into various aspects of the said event.”
The statement also included assurances to the West, saying that “there is no danger from the territory of Afghanistan to any country, including America.” It said the Taliban want the implementation of the Doha Agreement.
The strike early on Sunday shook up Shirpur, once a district of historic buildings that were bulldozed in 2003 to make way for luxury homes for officials of the Western-backed government of Afghanistan and international aid agencies. After the US withdrawal in August 2021, high-ranking Taliban moved into some of the abandoned homes there.
US officials have said al-Zawahri was staying at the home of a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. Haqqani is the deputy head of the Taliban, is the interior minister in their government and leads the Haqqani Network, a powerful faction within the movement.
The Haqqani Network is an Afghan Islamist rebel group, built around the family of the same name. In the 1980s it fought against Soviet forces and for the past 20 years it fought against US-led NATO forces and the former government of Afghanistan. The US government maintains a $10 million bounty on Sirajuddin Haqqani for attacks on US troops and Afghan civilians.
But the Haqqanis, from Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province, have rivals within the Taliban leaders, mainly from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some believe Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures have resisted attacks by the Haqqanis on civilians in Kabul and elsewhere during the insurgency.
In the first half of 2022, al-Zawahri extended support to supporters with video and audio messages, including assurances that al-Qaeda can compete with the Islamic State group for leadership of a global movement, a report by Analytical Support of the United Nations Sanctions Monitoring Team said.