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Ayman al-Zawahiri Was an Influential Figure of Modern Jihad


Jared Malsin and Nancy A. Youssef

WSJ, Aug. 1, 2022

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a founding member of the jihadist movement and a key strategist behind a decadeslong campaign of terror and the deadliest strike on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001, died in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul on July 31, the White House said.

The Hellfire missile strike from a drone, conducted Sunday as the terror leader stood at the balcony of a Kabul safe house where he and his wife and daughter moved earlier this year, didn’t kill anyone else, senior Biden administration officials said Monday. The Taliban was aware that he was in Kabul, the officials said, as was the U.S. starting in April, when officials began watching The House from which he never left. Instead, throughout his time in Kabul, Zawahiri continued recording video messages to the thousands of al Qaeda supporters and may have recorded videos that would be released after his death, according to senior administration officials.

“For decades he was the mastermind behind the attacks against Americans,” including the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors, the 1998 bombings against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, President Biden said Monday night during an address announcing Zawahiri’s death. Mr. Biden said he gave the approval for the strike a week ago after officials told him the conditions were optimal, with minimal risk of harming civilians.

“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, “ Mr. Biden said.

Zawahiri was 71 years old.

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