A Kabul Safe House – How the CIA’s Al Qaeda Chief Zawahiri. identified and killed


The strike was carried out by a drone at 9:48 PM ET (0148 GMT) on July 30.


Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US attack in Afghanistan last weekend, the biggest blow to the terrorist 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 counterterrorism and intelligence community, a senior government official told reporters.

Until the US announcement, there were rumors that Zawahiri was in the tribal area of ​​Pakistan or in Afghanistan.

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

* The US government had been aware of a network it said Zawahiri supported for several years, and for the past year, following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, officials had searched for evidence of Al-Qaeda’s presence in the country.

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

* Over the course of several months, intelligence officials gained confidence that they had correctly identified Zawahiri at the Kabul safe house and began briefing senior government officials in early April. Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, then 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 hiding place in Kabul, officials were unaware that he had left it and they identified him several times on the balcony – where he was eventually beaten -, the official said.

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

* In recent weeks, the president has held meetings with key advisers and cabinet members to investigate 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.

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

He inquired about lighting, weather, building materials and other factors that could affect the success of the operation, the official said. The president also requested an analysis of the possible consequences of a strike in Kabul.

* A close circle of senior lawyers from various agencies investigated the intelligence report and confirmed that Zawahiri was a lawful target based on his continued leadership of Al Qaeda.

On July 25, the president convened his key cabinet members and advisers to receive a final briefing and discuss how Zawahiri’s assassination would affect America’s relationship with the Taliban, among other things, the official said. After asking the opinion of others in the room, Biden authorized “a precisely tailored airstrike” on the condition that the risk of civilian casualties would be minimized.

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

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)

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