The Taliban on Tuesday confirmed the murder of Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri during a United States drone strike at his hiding place in Kabul, according to top sources.
The sources exclusively told News18 that the Taliban was negotiating with the AQ leadership to leave Afghan soil.
The Taliban also asked them not to engage in terror activities, the sources added.
In between, some Taliban teams also visited Zawahiri and there is a possibility that his location has been leaked, the source said.
The drone strike has intensified global surveillance of the Afghan Taliban rulers and further undermined their efforts to gain international recognition and much-needed aid.
The Taliban had promised in the 2020 Doha agreement on the terms of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan that they would not host any members of al-Qaeda.
ALSO READ | Exclusive | Afghanistan ‘desperately needs’ India’s help to ensure peaceful environment: Taliban Interior Minister Haqqani
Nearly a year after the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the assassination of al-Zawahiri raises questions about the Taliban leaders’ involvement in harboring a mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks and one of America’s most wanted fugitives.
NOT SO SAFE HOUSE?
The hiding place is in Kabul’s upscale Shirpur neighborhood, home to several Taliban leaders who had taken up residence in the mansions of former top Afghan officials of the overthrown, Western-backed government.
The Taliban initially tried to describe the strike as America violating the Doha deal, which also includes a Taliban pledge not to protect those who want to attack the US, something al-Zawahiri had done for years in internet videos and online screeds. The Taliban have not yet been able to say who died in the strike.
Meanwhile, rumors persist of unrest in the Taliban ranks, particularly between the powerful group known as the Haqqani Network, which apparently protected al-Zawahiri, and other Taliban figures.
#BREAK | The home hit under US drone strike belonged to a close associate of Zawahiri
— News18 (@CNNnews18) August 2, 2022
“The murder has raised many questions,” said a Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters publicly.
Zawahiri became the leader of al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden was assassinated in Pakistan in 2011 during an operation by US Navy SEALs.
“The Taliban were aware of his presence in Kabul, and if they were not aware of it, they should explain their position,” the official said.
ALSO READ | ‘Caravans of Jihad’ to Kashmir: As US strike kills Zawahiri, a look at Al-Qaeda chief’s threats to India
The house where al-Zawahiri stayed was home to a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, according to a senior US intelligence official. Taliban officials on Tuesday blocked AP journalists in Kabul from reaching the damaged home.
The Haqqani Network is an Afghan Islamist rebel group built around the family of the same name. In the 1980s it fought against Soviet forces and for the past 20 years it fought against US-led NATO forces and the former government of Afghanistan.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is also the first deputy leader of the Taliban movement since 2016. As of last August, he also served in the appointed Ministry of Interior of the Taliban government. The US government maintains a $10 million bounty on him for numerous major kidnappings and attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government and civilian targets.
But the Haqqanis, from Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province, disagree with others in the Taliban leadership, mainly from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some believe Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures have resisted the Haqqanis’ violent attacks on civilians in Kabul and elsewhere.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid alleged that the US had violated the Doha Agreement by launching the strike.
With input from Associate Press
Read all Latest news and Important news here