Pakistan or Taliban: Who aided US in killing Ayman al-Zawahiri?
A key figure behind the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a special R9X Hellfire missile in Kabul on Sunday, the US announced. His death has given rise to speculation about who disclosed his location to US Intelligence. Taliban leadership is concerned about an insider being the source of this leak. Experts opine that Pakistan had a clear role.
- The 71-year-old slain al-Qaeda boss helped coordinate the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, after which he had been on the run for 20 years with a $25 million bounty on his head.
- According to experts, however, al-Zawahiri lacked the charm that helped Osama bin Laden mobilize radicals throughout the globe, but he freely lent his analytical skills to the al-Qaeda cause.
The al-Qaeda chief was reportedly taking refuge in Sirajudin Haqqani's home- a well-known terrorist and chief of the Haqqani Network. Also the Interior Minister, Sirajuddin reportedly has tiffs with certain sections of the Taliban, owing to their founder Mullah Mohammed Omar's dislike of the Haqqani Network. Analysts say that Omar's son, Defense Minister Mullah Yaqoob, disclosed al-Zawahiri's location during his recent visit to Qatar.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amit Muttaqi is also a suspect due to his links with Pakistan. Experts believe Pakistan may have leaked al-Zawahiri's location to acquire three things: the $25 million bounty, help with an outstanding IMF loan, and clearance from the gray list of the FATF. Al-Zawahiri reportedly moved to Kabul from Karachi through the Chaman border with only Haqqani Network's help.
With US officials not disclosing where the drone was launched from, it is possible that Pakistan provided the US with both airspace and intelligence. The US was reportedly given "precise" intelligence about al-Zawahiri "visiting his family," which reiterates Pakistan's role. However, some also feel that the location may have been disclosed by Taliban insiders as they are in dire need of international assistance.
Experts believe that al-Zawahiri has been eliminated by the "macabre" Hellfire R9X. The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles are laser-guided, air-to-ground subsonic missiles. However, the special R9X missile has six razor-like blades that slice through its target but do not explode, thus lowering collateral damage. The pop-out blades of this missile have been designed especially for targeted killings.
Al-Zawahiri was born in Giza, Egypt, on June 19, 1951. He had studied medicine to become a surgeon and served in the Egyptian Army for three years. Al-Zawahiri founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) in the late 1970s and later merged it with al-Qaeda. He was announced as al-Qaeda's second General Emir after the US killed bin Laden in Pakistan's Abbottabad in 2011.