Taliban warns US to not repeat drone strike that killed al-Qaida chief Zawahiri

ISLAMABAD/KABUL: The Taliban said on Thursday that the government had no information about Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri who “entered and lived in the capital Kabul” and warned the United States never to repeat an attack on Afghan soil.
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, in the biggest blow to militants since US Navy SEALs shot Osama bin Laden more than a decade ago. .
“The government and leadership were not aware of what is being claimed, nor any trace there,” Suhail ShaheenThe Taliban’s designated representative to the United Nations, who is based in Doha, said in a statement.
“The veracity of the allegation is now being investigated,” he said, adding that the results of the investigation would be shared publicly.
Taliban leaders have kept quiet about Sunday’s drone strike and have not confirmed Zawahiri’s presence or death in Kabul.
Referring to the drone strike, the Taliban said, “If such incidents are repeated again and if the territory of Afghanistan is violated, the United States will be responsible for any consequences.”
Top Taliban leaders have had lengthy discussions about how to respond to the US drone strike, three sources in the group said.
The Taliban’s response could have significant repercussions as the group seeks international legitimacy and accesses billions of dollars in frozen funds following 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 host other militant groups.
Shaheen said the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan – the name the Taliban use for the country and their government – is committed to the agreement, signed in the Qatari capital Doha.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the agreement by housing and providing shelter to Zawahiri.

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