At 9:48 pm ET on Saturday night, July 31, the US executed a complex counter-terrorism operation to find and eliminate Al-Qaida’s current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. A senior administration official confirmed that the most wanted terrorist after 9/11 was located in a safe house in Kabul with his family before he was killed.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was Osama bin Laden’s deputy during the 9/11 attack and his successor following President Obama’s successful US counter-terrorism mission in June 2011.

After years of hiding, the US collected intelligence to “confirm with confidence” that Ayman al-Zawahiri was located in Kabul and that senior Taliban leadership “was aware of his presence” in Afghanistan.

“He continued to produce videos” since he arrived at the safe house, according to a senior administration official.  

The counter-terrorism operation was kept top secret and involved a tight circle around the President. 

On July 1, President Biden was briefed about the operation in the situation room. On July 25, Biden received an updated operational report before moving forward with authorizing the airstrikes. 

On July 31, the US fired two missiles at al-Zawahiri’s location. There was no US personnel present in Kabul. Al-Zawahiri’s family members were at the safe house, but a senior administration official confirmed that “no civilians were killed.”

According to the administration official, the Taliban tried to “cover-up” that al-Zawahiri was at the safe house, as they relocated his wife and family. 

The official said the White House hopes that victims of 9/11 and other Al Qaeda violence would finally get closure. 


Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent. Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at...

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