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President Biden announces U.S. operation killed al-Qaida leader who helped plan 9/11

Monday night, President Joe Biden announced that the United States has killed Al Qaeda leader and key figure in the September 11th attacks, Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike near Kabul, Afghanistan. 

“For decades he was the mastermind behind attacks against Americans,” Biden said on Aug. 1, also noting the 2000 USS Cole attack and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. 

Biden detailed al-Zawahiri’s role leading al-Qaida since Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in 2011, including calling on followers in recent weeks to attack the U.S. and allies in videos. 

“We make it clear again tonight that, that 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,” Biden said.

Why it matters

Al-Zawahri and the better-known Osama bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks that brought many ordinary Americans their first knowledge of al-Qaida. Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, in operation carried out by U.S. Navy SEALs after a nearly decade-long hunt.

The operation is a significant counterterrorism win for the Biden administration just 11 months after American troops left the country after a two-decade war.

What he’s saying

“Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said in a speech Monday evening from the White House. “People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.”

  • “The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. We make it clear again tonight that 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,” Biden continued.
  • “We will never forget. We continue to mourn every innocent life that was stolen from 9/11 and honor their memories,” he added.

“To the families who lost fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers on that … September day, it is my hope that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure. No day shall erase them from the memory of time.”

— President Biden

What’s next

Senior Taliban officials were aware of al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul, raising new concerns about the Afghan government’s links to al-Qaeda and formal pledge not to harbor terrorists, according to a senior U.S. official.

 Secretary of State Tony Blinken did not say whether the Biden administration would take any action against the Taliban

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