Top Afghan Taliban leaders held discussions on Wednesday about how to respond to a US drone strike in Kabul, which the United States said killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Reuters reported, citing three sources in the group. quoted.
The United States killed Zawahiri on Sunday with a missile fired by a drone as he stood on a balcony of his hideout in Kabul, US officials said, the biggest blow to the terrorists since Osama bin Laden was shot dead more than a decade ago.
The Taliban have not confirmed Zawahiri’s death.
Officials from the Islamist group, long-time allies of al-Qaeda, initially confirmed Sunday’s drone strike but said the house hit was empty.
“There are very high-level meetings on whether they should respond to the drone strike, and if they decide to do so, what is the right way,” a Taliban leader with a key position in Kabul told Reuters.
The official, who said there had been long discussions about leadership for two days, declined to be identified. He did not confirm that Zawahiri was in the house that the missile hit.
The Taliban’s response could have significant repercussions as the group seeks international legitimacy and access to billions of dollars in frozen funds after their defeat of a US-backed government a year ago.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, was closely involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and was one of the world’s most wanted men.
His death in Kabul raises questions about whether he received shelter from the Taliban, who had assured the United States as part of a 2020 agreement on the withdrawal of US-led troops that they would not harbor other terrorist groups.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the agreement by housing and providing shelter to Zawahiri.
Outside a close circle of top Taliban leaders, group members dived into the dark as to whether Zawahiri was actually in Kabul, let alone his fate.
Another Taliban official confirmed the high-level meetings but said he was not aware of what was being discussed and that he did not believe Zawahiri was in the house.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s designated representative to the United Nations, who is based in Doha, told reporters he had heard nothing about the Taliban’s stance.
“I await details and response from Kabul,” he said in a message to reporters.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)