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Zawahiri strike: Other al-Qaeda and ISIS leaders killed by US


The United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, President Biden said Monday. Zawahiri, 71, was one of the world’s most wanted terrorists and, alongside al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, oversaw the September 11, 2001 attacks.

He was widely seen as the mastermind behind the notorious terror group – pioneering a movement that advocated spectacular attacks and the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.

Both Zawahiri and bin Laden escaped US forces deployed to Afghanistan in late 2001. Zawahiri’s fate remained a mystery even after bin Laden was killed in a raid by US forces in Pakistan in 2011.

Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Al-Qaeda and successor to Osama Bin Laden?

A loud explosion was heard in the Afghan capital at 6:18 a.m. Sunday. A Taliban spokesman wrote in a Tweeter that an airstrike hit “a residential house” in the capital and claimed it was “carried out by American drones”.

The attack on Zawahiri is the first known counterterrorism strike since the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan last August. Some experts and rights advocates have questioned the ethics and effectiveness of such operations.

Here’s a look at several past operations that targeted key leaders of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi

President Biden announced in February that US special operations forces had carried out a counterterrorism mission in Syria, killing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the militant group Islamic State.

Thirteen people died in the raid, including six children and four women, according to local first responders. Biden said at the time that there were no American casualties.

The operation targeted a two-storey house in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, said nearby residents who said they heard gunfire and helicopters. Qurayshi detonated a bomb that killed himself and members of his family, US officials told reporters. One of Qurayshi’s lieutenants was also killed and possibly another child, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

US officials say Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi killed himself and his family in an explosion (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: AP/The Washington Post)

Officials said the mission had been planned for months. It came as concerns mounted over the resurgence of Islamic State and echoed the US operation in Idlib two years earlier that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Qurayshi’s predecessor.

Who is the leader of the Islamic State killed in the American raid? Here is what you need to know about Qurayshi and northern Syria.

President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that Baghdadi, then an Islamic State commander, had died during a US military operation in Syria.

Baghdadi, who took over the leadership of the Islamic State of Iraq in 2010, declared an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria which at its height controlled an area the size of Britain and inspired attacks terrorists around the world. The group is known for its brutal tactics and extreme interpretations of Islamic texts.

A US-led military coalition ousted Islamic State from the last of its territory in March 2019 – but Baghdadi, who rarely appeared in public, remained free.

ISIS fighters launched a brazen attack to free their comrades

In an overnight operation on October 26, 2019, helicopters carried a team of US special operations troops to northwestern Syria to launch an assault on a militant compound there. Baghdadi retreated into a “dead-end tunnel” and detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three of his children, Trump said.

Trump boasted that Baghdadi “died like a dog”. The news of his death was welcomed by leaders in Europe and the Middle East.

US officials said US intelligence agencies tracked Baghdadi to Idlib province, where various Islamist extremist groups operate.

Two US servicemen were lightly injured in the operation, officials said, and other militants were also killed, including two women believed to be Baghdadi’s wives who were wearing explosive vests.

The intent of the operation was to capture Baghdadi, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper told CNN at the time.

The mission came as Trump came under fire for his decision to withdraw most US forces in northern Syria – a move seen by critics as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought Islamic State alongside the Americans and provided information for the operation.

Qurayshi assumed leadership of the Islamic State several days after the raid. A February 2020 Pentagon report found that Baghdadi’s death had little impact on the group’s command structure or operations.

Hamza bin Laden, son of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, whom some saw as a potential rising star in the terror network, was killed by US forces during a counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, a statement said. Trump in September 2019.

Trump did not provide additional details. Earlier reports said Hamza had died earlier, leaving uncertainty as to when the operation was to take place.

One of the al-Qaeda founder’s many children, Hamza was “responsible for the planning and management of various terrorist groups,” Trump said in a statement, describing his death as a blow to the network’s leadership. activist.

Trump later called Hamza “al-Qaeda’s heir apparent”, and terrorism experts described him as an attractive figure to young militants as al-Qaeda competed with Islamic State. for recruits.

Some analysts, however, have questioned Hamza’s influence within al-Qaeda. And the killing of top al-Qaeda leaders in US strikes in Yemen and Libya has done little to stem the spread of the group’s ideology or reach.

When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he tasked CIA Director Leon Panetta with the assassination or capture of Bin Laden – whose organization carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks – an absolute priority.

On the night of May 1, 2011, Obama and senior officials watched from the White House Situation Room as Navy SEALs fly from Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan, to attack a compound where they believe bin Laden was hiding. The American team killed Bin Laden, 54, and took his body along with a treasure of papers and personal effects.

“We got it,” Obama said when it became clear bin Laden was dead, The Post reported that week.

Al-Qaeda confirmed bin Laden’s death a few days later and vowed to avenge the murder.

Addressing the public after the operation, Obama called it “the most significant achievement yet in our nation’s efforts to defeat al-Qaeda” and said the world was “a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden”.

The Post later reported that the CIA used stealth drones to monitor the compound. The discovery of Bin Laden in Pakistan has raised questions in the United States about Pakistan’s reliability as an ally against terrorism. Pakistan’s prime minister called the US assault a “violation of sovereignty”.

Polls soon after the raid showed broad approval of it by the American public, and American allies welcomed the operation. Rights groups and some lawyers questioned whether the killing was legally and ethically justifiable, arguing that US forces should have attempted to capture bin Laden alive and bring him to justice.

The decade-long raid and hunt for bin Laden was dramatized in the 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Obama said two days after the raid that the United States had photos of bin Laden’s body but would not release them, sparking conspiracy theories. Legal actions to try to force their release have since failed. Officials told reporters that bin Laden was buried at sea in accordance with Islamic tradition.

On June 7, 2006, US forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, in an airstrike on a safe house north of Baghdad. Al-Qaeda-linked websites quickly confirmed the death and said Zarqawi had achieved “martyrdom”.

Six people were killed in the attack, including a woman and a child, military officials said.

The strike came three years into the war in Iraq, which the George W. Bush administration launched on the basis of false claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein housed al-Qaeda. Zarqawi, according to Bush administration officials, served as a link between al-Qaeda and Hussein’s government.

“Zarqawi’s death is a blow to al-Qaeda,” Bush said in a speech at the White House the next day. “This is a victory in the global war on terrorism, and this is an opportunity for the new Iraqi government to turn the tide of that fight.”

The Islamic State grew out of al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate several years later and presented itself as a more ruthless alternative.

Joby Warrick, Shane Harris and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.


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