WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden mentioned Monday {that a} U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend killed prime al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri, the successor of the terrorist community’s slain chief Osama bin Laden.

“Justice has been delivered and this terrorist chief is not any extra,” the president mentioned in a particular tackle on the White Home Monday night.

The strike, which occurred at 9:38 p.m. ET Saturday night time, is the primary recognized U.S. assault in Afghanistan since Biden ended America’s 20-year struggle in Afghanistan final August.

Al-Zawahri, 71, was standing on a balcony of a “protected home” in downtown Kabul that was hit by two missiles, in response to a senior administration official, who mentioned the assault with reporters on the situation of anonymity.

The strikes killed al-Zawahri – essentially the most senior chief of al-Qaida since 2011 – and nobody else, together with civilians, the official mentioned, citing U.S. intelligence. None of al-Zawahri’s members of the family have been current.

The official credited “cautious persistence and persistence” by counterterrorism professionals and decisive motion by Biden, who was first briefed on al-Zawahri’s location in April and the proposed operation on July 1. Biden signed off on the strike following a July 25 assembly with prime advisors.

Al-Zawahri’s demise delivers a “important blow to the group’s means to function together with towards the U.S. homeland,” the official mentioned. The U.S. believes he was persevering with to offer strategic route to the huge terrorist community and was calling for future assaults towards the U.S.

For a number of years, the U.S. was conscious of a community giving safety to al-Zawahri, in response to the official. This yr, the U.S. monitored that al-Zawahri’s spouse and youngsters relocated to a protected home in Kabul, the place al-Zawahri himself was later recognized.

Senior Taliban leaders have been conscious of Zawahri’s location, a U.S. official mentioned.

Though he saved a low profile for a lot of the previous 25 years, U.S. officers by no means gave up the hunt for Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor and eye surgeon by coaching who began as bin Laden’s mentor when the 2 met in Afghanistan within the Nineteen Nineties.

For years, the 2 labored hand-in-glove to construct out al-Qaida’s world terrorist attain and capabilities, with bin Laden appearing as the general public face of the group and Zawahri as a grasp strategist with a deep understanding of Islamic theology.

Zawahri was initially way more influential than bin Laden, serving because the chief of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the phobia group chargeable for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Zawahri additionally spoke significantly better English than bin Laden and through the years did lots behind the scenes to unite and preserve the collectively the varied al-Qaida factions.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a fight veteran who sits on the Armed Providers Committee, hailed the announcement.

Al-Zawahri “has the blood of far too many U.S. servicemembers and harmless civilians on his arms,” she mentioned.

However some longtime U.S. counterterrorism officers downplayed the importance of the strike, saying that al-Zawahri through the years had by no means actually stepped into the void left behind after the U.S. killed bin Laden, al-Qaida’s founder and the person who had united many terrorist teams beneath the al-Qaida banner within the late Nineteen Nineties.

Consequently, al-Qaida lacks the identical top-down organizational construction that it did earlier than bin Laden’s demise greater than a decade in the past, with at the least 5 associates all over the world now working largely unbiased of one another and the “core al-Qaida” components nonetheless residing in Afghanistan, in response to Javed Ali, a senior Nationwide Safety Council counterterrorism official within the Trump administration who has tracked al-Zawahri and different al-Qaida leaders for many years.

“It is a continuation of the longstanding U.S. effort to decimate al-Qaida management during the last 20 years, and whereas al-Zawahri had taken over the reins a decade in the past, he by no means held the identical standing as bin Laden. He was extra of a caretaker, not a visionary,” mentioned Ali, who additionally spent 16 years in prime nationwide safety positions on the Protection Intelligence Company, Division of Homeland Safety and FBI.

It was al-Zawahri who wrote in a 1998 manifesto that killing People and their supporters anyplace on the earth “is a person obligation for each Muslim who can do it in each nation by which it’s doable to do it.”

Three years later, he performed a key position in serving to bin Laden oversee the suicide hijackings, which have been conceived of and orchestrated by a detailed Pakistani ally Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Al-Zawahri’s position in 9/11 wasn’t highlighted as a lot as bin Laden’s and Mohammed’s by the 9/11 Fee and different investigative our bodies. However his management of the robust contingent of Egyptians that had come to Afghanistan to affix al-Qaida helped present the operational expertise, organizational know-how and monetary experience to hold out the assaults. Ringleader and lead hijacker of the 9/11 plot, Mohammed Atta, was a fellow Egyptian and so have been lots of the prime commanders of the group who had pledged allegiance to al-Zawahri.

Al-Zawahri was initially way more influential than bin Laden, serving because the chief of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the phobia group chargeable for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. “He was extraordinarily influential,” Ali advised USA TODAY. “He was a physician, he was a thinker and he was 10 plus years outdated than bin Laden once they got here collectively” in Afghanistan.

Monday’s announcement comes almost one yr after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest struggle amid the Taliban’s return to energy

President Joe Biden speaks about “The Inflation Discount Act of 2022” within the State Eating Room of the White Home in Washington, Thursday, July 28, 2022.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook

Attain Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison. 

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Biden introduced the killing of al-Qaida goal Ayman al-Zawahri