Update(1957ET): Biden in his short speech announced the death of longtime al-Qaeda leader and mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri, emphasizing that "no civilians" were harmed - including Zawahiri's family - during the double hellfire missile drone attack that took him out.
"He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats and American interests," Biden described of the AQ leader. "Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more."
"None of his family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties," Biden said. Shaking his finger to the camera, the US president warned took the opportunity to warn: "if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you."
UPDATE: CIA’s Zawahiri strike— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 1, 2022
• 9:48 pm ET Sat,6:18 am Kabul Sun
• UAV attack, 2 hellfire missiles
• Killed on balcony
• Moved to Kabul w family in 2022
• Family unharmed
• Haqqani network KNEW where he was, cleaned up after attack
• No US forces on ground
For the US military and intelligence community, Zawahiri's reported presence in the Afghan capital will raise questions no doubt. Previously after Biden's controversial quick troop pullout and botched evacuation from Afghanistan after the over two decade long occupation, there was debate centered on whether the US would conduct "over the horizon" limited combat strikes and missions. With Zawahiri's death, it appears so.
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The Associated Press is reporting that a US drone strike in Afghanistan has killed top Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
The news is breaking minutes after the White House announced that President Biden will speak Monday evening on a "successful" operation against a "significant al-Qaida target" in Afghanistan.
"Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant Al Qaeda target in Afghanistan. The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties," a senior administration official announced later afternoon.
US STRIKE KILLED TOP AL-QAEDA LEADER AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI: AP
Other journalists and pundits have also been pointing to a high-level strike on a top terror operative...
The CIA carried out a drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, two U.S. officials tell me. This would mark the first publicly known CIA strikes (that I can recall) since the fall of Kabul last year.— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) August 1, 2022
Source just told me AQ chief and bin laden successor, Ayman Zawahiri, has been smoked. Hope it’s true. Rest in pieces.— Eli Lake (@EliLake) August 1, 2022
Biden is speaking despite having a "rebound" case of Covid-19, though the administration says the address won't be open to the full press corps.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson reviews the following background:
Zawahiri had a $25 million bounty on his head since 2001. In addition to planning 9/11, also behind attack on USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen in 2000. State Dept. says he played role in August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224.
As for Zawahiri's reported death... there's been 'false-starts' in the recent past:
Remember back in Nov. 2020 when it was authoritatively stated that Zawahiri was dead, and the rest of the counterterrorism field and the press treated it like gospel? Because it was what they wanted to hear... https://t.co/9PtAmxyXE1— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) July 20, 2022
And remembering bin Laden's death deep inside (US ally) Pakistan's territory, and the strange details surrounding it...
Did they already throw the body of Ayman al-Zawahiri in the ocean?— Kevork Almassian🇸🇾🇦🇲 (@KevorkAlmassian) August 1, 2022
Biden's address is scheduled for 7:30pm eastern time. Watch Live: