How the CIA identified and killed Al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri

Zawahiri, who played a key role in the 9/11 attacks and later formed Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, was killed in a US drone strike

Zawahiri, who played a key role in the 9/11 attacks and later formed Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, was killed in a US drone strike

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri liked to read alone on the balcony of his Kabul hideout in the mornings, a “patron-of-life intelligence” that eventually gave US intelligence agencies the opportunity to launch a precision attack that cost the life of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, a report said.

Zawahiri, who played a key role in the 9/11 attacks and later formed Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, was killed in a US drone strike on Saturday night.

“Intelligence officers made a crucial discovery this spring after following Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, to Kabul, Afghanistan: he liked to read alone in the morning on the balcony of his hiding place.” The New York Times (NYT) said in a report titled “How the CIA Tracked the Leader of Al Qaeda.”

According to the report, analysts are looking for “intelligence about the pattern of life,” meaning the CIA can use any habit to track down and attack terrorists. “In al-Zawahri’s case, his long balcony visits gave the agency the opportunity for a clear missile shot that could prevent collateral damage,” the agency said.

When intelligence agencies confirmed the location of Zawahiri’s hiding place, “the CIA followed the script it wrote while hunting (Osama) Bin Laden. The agency built a model of the site and tried to find out all about it.”

Analysts eventually identified a figure who sat on the balcony reading but never left the house, like al-Zawahiri. NYT report said.

On July 25, Biden authorized the CIA to carry out the airstrike “when the opportunity arose”.

“Sunday morning in Kabul, it did. A drone flown by the CIA found al-Zawahri on his balcony. The agency’s agents fired the missile, ending a hunt for more than two decades,” the report said.

US President Joe Biden announced Monday that Zawahiri, who took over the reins of al-Qaeda after the assassination of Osama bin Laden 11 years ago, was killed in a US drone strike.

Biden said, “Justice has been done and this terrorist leader is no more.”

How the CIA Zawahiri . identified and killed

The NYT According to the report, top intelligence officials briefed national security officials at the White House on April 1 about the safe house and how they had been tracking Zawahiri.

An “important insight” that had emerged about Zawahiri’s life pattern was that “he never saw him go out of the house and seemed to get fresh air only by standing on an upstairs balcony. He stayed on the balcony for a long time, what gave the CIA a good chance to target him.” The Al-Qaeda leader was killed by a Hellfire missile “designed to kill one person”.

Biden was briefed on July 1 by CIA Director William Burns and other intelligence officials and shown a model of the hiding place, the report said.

Biden “inquired about the possibility of collateral damage, urging Burns to walk him through the steps of how agents found al-Zawahri and confirmed his information, and their plans to kill him.”

In June and July, talks focused on intelligence and exploring the possible consequences of the strike.

The report added that the “hidden address” where Zawahiri was staying was owned by “an associate of senior officials in the Haqqani network” in an area of ​​the Afghan capital controlled by the terror group.

Senior Taliban leaders occasionally gathered in the house, but US officials don’t know how much knew the Haqqanis were hiding al-Zawahri. If some senior Taliban officials didn’t know that the Haqqanis had allowed al-Zawahri return, his murder would drive a wedge between the groups,” the report said, citing independent analysts.

It added that Zawahiri’s ties to Haqqani network leaders “led US intelligence officials to the safe house” where he was hiding.

For years it was believed that Zawahiri was hiding in the Pakistan border area and it remains unclear why he returned to Afghanistan, the report said. After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Zawahiri’s family is believed to have returned to a hiding place in Kabul.

The NYT report said that while his family tried to make sure they were not watched and kept Zawahiri’s location a secret, “intelligence services quickly learned that he too had returned to Afghanistan.

“There was a renewed effort to find out where he was,” the report quoted former CIA officer Mick Mulroy as saying. “The only good thing that could come out of the withdrawal from Afghanistan is that certain high-level terrorist figures would think it’s safe for them to be there.”

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