President Joe Biden announced Monday that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, an operation he said delivered justice and hopefully "one more measure of closure" to families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The alert reads:
On July 31, 2022, the United States conducted a precision counterterrorism strike in Afghanistan that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy and successor as leader of al-Qa’ida. Al- Zawahiri was one of the masterminds of the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, and had continued to urge his followers to attack the United States. Following al-Zawahiri’s death, supporters of al- Qa’ida, or its affiliated terrorist organizations, may seek to attack U.S. facilities, personnel, or citizens. As terrorist attacks often occur without warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness when traveling abroad.
The president said in an evening address from the White House that U.S. intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahiri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family. The president approved the operation last week and it was carried out Sunday.
Al-Zawahiri 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.
As for Al-Zawahiri, Biden said, "He will never again, never again, allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven because he is gone and we’re going to make sure that nothing else happens."
Al-Zawahiri’s death eliminates the figure who more than anyone shaped al-Qaida, first as bin Laden’s deputy since 1998, then as his successor. Together, he and bin Laden turned the jihadi movement’s guns to target the United States, carrying out the deadliest attack ever on American soil — the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings.
After his killing, the White House underscored that al-Zawahiri had continued to be a dangerous figure. The senior administration official said al-Zawahiri had continued to "provide strategic direction," including urging attacks on the U.S., while in hiding. He had also prioritized to members of the terror network that the United States remained al-Qaida’s "primary enemy," the official said.
"The Department of State believes there is a higher potential for anti-American violence given the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri," state department officials said on its website.
"Current information suggests that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions across the globe. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings," their statement continued.
State Department officials urge U.S. citizens to check advisories before traveling.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was reported from Los Angeles.