How Ayman al-Zawahiri’s FAMILY led CIA to world’s most wanted terrorist

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been one of the primary targets of various presidential administrations since even before the Egyptian doctor turned terrorist helped to mastermind 9/11.

On Monday, the US announced that the 21 years long search for one of the most wanted men in the world had ended a few days previously with a drone strike in Kabul. 

The terrorism chief had been tracked by the CIA to a safe house in Kabul after he moved his wife, her daughter and kids, into a safe home into an affluent suburb in the Afghan capital.  

A security official told reporters following the attack that it was the Egyptian jihadist’s consistent ‘pattern of life’ that included periods when he would ‘linger’ on a balcony in the home overlooking the city. 

This allowed agents to tailor an airstrike particularly for the purpose of taking al-Zawahiri out.   

President Joe Biden told the nation after the strike: ‘Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more.’ 

This was at least the fifth time that the CIA has attempted to take out the 71-year-old. 

This is the timeline laying out how the US government got their man: 

Prior to 2022 

Since 9/11 and the US conquest of Afghanistan in 2001, the al-Zawahiri was thought to have been residing in Taliban-friendly areas of Pakistan. His bodyguards at times even marrying into local tribes in order to solidify relationships. 

At one point, al-Zawahiri was even suspected to be living in Karachi, the Pakistani capital.  Although, on multiple occasions since 2001, bin Laden’s mentor has gone to ground for so long, rumors persisted that he was dead. 

In February 2003, officials believed that they were close to capturing al-Zawahiri as the chief met with another al-Qaeda figure in Peshawar, Pakistan. 

The operation failed because agents did not have a confirmed exact location for the meeting until the day after it occurred, reported CNN in 2010. 

A year later, an assassination attempt on the terrorism chief failed. The US bombed a mountainous region of South Waziristan in Pakistan where he was thought to be hiding. 

Al-Zawahiri was injured in that bombing but survived. 

In 2006, a US bombardment of an area in the North West Frontier Province, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan was direct attempt on al-Zawahiri’s life. 

Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people

Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people

Osama Bin Laden, left, was killed in a military attack by U.S. Navy Seals more than a decade before Ayman Al-Zawahiri, right, was killed in a drone attack

Osama Bin Laden, left, was killed in a military attack by U.S. Navy Seals more than a decade before Ayman Al-Zawahiri, right, was killed in a drone attack

Despite rumors that the US had killed the then second-in-command of al-Qaeda, he appeared in a video two weeks later saying that ‘Bush nor all the powers on earth could bring his death one second closer.’ 

In 2009, a Jordanian doctor named Human al-Balawi killed seven CIA agents after promising them that he could lead them to al-Zawahiri. 

During a meeting with his handlers at a base in Khost, Afghanistan, al-Balawi detonated a suicide vest, killing a total of eight people and injuring six others.

It’s not clear if al-Balawi was acting on Al-Qaeda’s behalf nor is it clear how many other times US officials felt they were close to the terrorist leader. 

Early 2022 

Early in 2022, senior intelligence figures in the Biden administration learned that al-Zawahri’s wife, daughter and her children, had been moved to a safe house in the Sherpur district of Kabul.   

The area was formerly the home of western embassies and charities prior to the Taliban’s overthrow of the US-backed government in August 2021. 

Speaking to the London Times, an employee of an agency formerly based in the Sherpur district said that they had been unable to return to their place of work since August 15 last year. 

Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda following Osama Bin Laden's death, was killed early Sunday in a drone attack on his safe house in the Afghan capital Kabul

Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda following Osama Bin Laden’s death, was killed early Sunday in a drone attack on his safe house in the Afghan capital Kabul

Another person who lives in the area told the newspaper: ‘I think there are some high-profile people nearby. Anyone visiting my place was searched and asked questions.’

This gave US intelligence operatives more than hunch that senior al-Qaeda figures had moved into the area.   

During the previous 12 months, al-Zawahiri has made his presence felt in videos stressing that he was person to lead an Islamist revolution and praising Indian Muslim women following a dispute of hijab wearing in the country in a series of videos.. 

The United Nations reported that the increase in video appearances from al-Zawahiri indicated that he was more emboldened since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan. 

April 2022 

Despite depleted numbers in the Afghan capital following the Taliban’s return, the CIA were able to gather enough reliable information to confirm that al-Zawahiri was living in the same home as his family in April.  

President Biden was briefed his senior security advisors that month. From there, the operation to take down the terrorist leader was hatched. 

An official told the Times: ‘We identified Zawahiri on multiple occasions for sustained periods of time on the balcony where he was ultimately struck.’

Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011

Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011

The owner of the home has not been named. The Washington Post referred to him as a ‘top aide’ to Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

A 2020 UN report said that al-Zawahiri had met with a senior member of the Haqqani network. The same report suggested that the al-Qaeda leader may have moved back to Afghanistan, possibly a remote region held by the Taliban. 

The Haqqani network is a Sunni Islamist militant organization founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani in the 1980s. The group served as key allies to Osama bin Laden during the Soviet-Afghan war.   

May – June 2022

Meetings during and May and June saw President Biden briefed on al-Zawahiri’s daily routine and officials concluded that he could be killed without any collateral injuries. 

Initially the meetings included only a few key security advisors as well as Vice President Kamala Harris.  

The Taliban swept back into power last year after President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending Washington's 20-year war in the country

The Taliban swept back into power last year after President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending Washington’s 20-year war in the country

By June, a United Nations report confirmed that senior al-Qaeda figures were back living in Kabul. The UN said that the group found ‘increased freedom of action’ in Afghanistan.’

In the weeks leading up to the strike, Biden had expanded the meetings to include other cabinet officials who would ‘scrutinize the intelligence findings,’ according to the Washington Post. 

July 2022

On July 1, Biden held a meeting in the Situation Room that included a scale model of al-Zahahiri’s safe house. 

The final meeting on the subject involving the president occurred on July 25. Also present at the meeting were, CIA director Avril Haines, advisor William Burns and national security advisor Jake Sullivan. 

All three were on board with the plan, and Biden gave it an okay. Prior to that meeting, the CIA were constantly tracking al-Zawahiri’s daily movements, according to the New York Times. 

The Times report suggests that al-Zawahiri had grown sloppy and despite not leaving his house, he didn’t change his routine.  

At breaking dawn on Sunday at 6:18 am, al-Zawahiri was killed by two R9X ‘Ninja’ Hellfire missiles fired from a CIA MQ-9 Reaper drone that was hovering over Kabul. 

Aftermath 

Following his death, the dead al-Qaeda’s leader’s family were moved out of the area. They were in a different part of the home when the strike took place. 

Satellites and a CIA ground team were able to successfully identify al-Zawahiri as deceased in the aftermath of the strike, reports the Washington Post. 

During an appearance on ‘Good Morning America’ on ABC on Tuesday, Biden national security advisor Jake O’Sullivan said: ‘There was nobody on the ground in uniform when this strike occurred.’

He also said that the administration is ‘in direct communication with the Taliban on this, and I’m not going to telegraph our next moves, but the Taliban well understand the United States is going to defend its interests.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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