Al Zawahiri’s body ‘not found’ at assassination site, Taliban says

The US invasion of Afghanistan, also Washington’s longest war, cost some $2 trillion and killed at least 71,000 civilians.

The body of Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al Zawahri, who was assassinated by the CIA last week, was not found at the site of the killing, the Taliban said on Saturday, following a probe into the assassination.

According to the local Radio Azadi which quoted the interim government’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, material used by the United States in the air strike “destroyed everything.”

“We did not find any body there,” Mujahid said.

The Al Qaeda leader was killed in a “precision” US airstrike in Afghanistan on 1 August by the CIA, and was subsequently announced by US President Joe Biden. This was considered the biggest move against the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

The latest precision attack was the first ‘known’ US strike to occur in Afghanistan since Washington withdrew its troops and diplomats from the country in August last year.

Through a text message to the Associated Press sent from his office in Doha, Sohail Shaheen, Taliban representative to the United Nations, said that the interim government and the group’s leadership were “never aware” of allegations speculating that Al Zawahiri’s was residing in Afghanistan’s capital.

Prior to the probe, the Taliban denied Al Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, a Taliban official said the group is investigating the US “claim” that the Al Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in Kabul,

Shaheen since added that an investigation is “underway to determine the validity of the allegations,” adding that the group’s leadership is in a “permanent meeting” regarding this case.

He further noted that the results of the probe will be “shared with everyone.”

US officials said that Al Zawahiri was staying at the home of the deputy head of the Taliban, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is currently the interior minister in the interim Taliban-led government, reports detailed.

Al Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon with a $25 million bounty on his head, was allegedly one of the Al Qaeda militants behind the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

He assumed leadership as Al Qaeda leader following the killing of bin Laden after years serving as the group’s lead organiser and strategist. There were circulating rumours of Al Zawahiri’s supposed death several times in the past few years, with other reports saying that he had poor health conditions.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, US officials detailed Al Zawahiri was killed by “hellfire” missiles from a US drone when he came out on the balcony of his safe house in the centre of Kabul on Sunday morning.

This move also raised the question as to whether the Taliban adhered to the Doha Agreement’s condition in not allowing Al Qaeda members to cement a foothold in the country.

In February 2020, under the former Donald Trump administration, the US and the Taliban signed the US–Taliban deal (or the Doha Agreement) in Qatar that set 1 May 2021 as the deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

However, the pull out was on the condition that the Taliban halts its support for terrorist organisations.

The deadline was later revised to 11 September by President Biden without conditions, before changing it to 31 August following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

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