Ayman al-Zawahiri death: Biden says ‘justice delivered’ after drone strike kills al-Qaida chief – live updates

Key events

Nicola Slawson

Nicola Slawson

The other major foreign policy development today concerns relations between the US and China, which are being strained by the expected visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. My colleague Nicola Slawson sets the scene:

Taiwan’s defence ministry has warned it would appropriately dispatch forces in reaction to “enemy threats”, as China stepped up its military rhetoric on the day of a highly controversial expected visit to Taipei by US speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a statement on Tuesday, the defence ministry said it had a full grasp of military activity near Taiwan and the “determination, ability and confidence” to ensure Taiwan’s national security. It added that it had made various unspecified plans for an emergency.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s premier reiterated that it “warmly welcomes” foreign guests, ahead of the potential visit by Pelosi. Taiwan “would make the most appropriate arrangements” for such guests and respect their plans, Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters on Tuesday when asked about a visit.

The statements came after Reuters reported several Chinese warships and planes had travelled near the median line – an unofficial border between China and Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait.

We are closely following the itinerary of #Pelosi. A visit to #Taiwan by her would constitute a gross interference in #China’s internal affairs, seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, wantonly trample on the #one-China principle.

— 刘晓明Liu Xiaoming (@AmbLiuXiaoMing) August 2, 2022

Stephen Collinson at CNN has offered this overnight analysis of what the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri means in the context of current US foreign policy.

For a few hours, America’s first war of the 21st century – the war on terror – returned to supersede the stirrings of a geopolitical showdown set to dominate the coming decades: a super power face-off with China.

The killing was seized upon by President Joe Biden as validation of his vow to prevent the war-torn South Asian country from again becoming a safe haven for terrorists, despite ending America’s longest war there last year.

More broadly, the attack, which hearkens back to the war on terror but coincides with a moment of soaring US tensions with Beijing, underscores a profound pivot in US national security policy.

At one time, finding terrorists who attacked America wherever they were hiding was the organizing principle of Washington’s approach to the world. While Monday’s news was a “mission accomplished” moment, simmering tensions over Taiwan show how the US government is now building a new national security machine to challenge China’s rising power.

Nicola Slawson

Nicola Slawson

The CIA strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri will be seen as a proof of the US’s ability to conduct “over-the-horizon” operations despite last year’s military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. But it also raised questions over al-Qaida’s continued presence in the country since the Taliban regained power.

  • When did Biden order the strike? After much consideration and detailed questions, the president eventually ordered a strike on the safe house at a meeting of key cabinet members and national security officials on 25 July.
  • When was it carried out? At 9.48pm ET on Saturday by an unmanned aerial vehicle, while Zawahiri was on his balcony.

Lyse Doucet, of the BBC, is posting images from Kabul of what could be the apartment where al-Zawahiri was hit:

She says workers nearby thought the building was empty:

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese says he hopes the loved ones of al-Qaida’s victims find some “small solace” in the death of Zawahiri.

Speaking to parliament on Tuesday, Albanese said:

So many lives have been lost and so much blood has been spilled since, including all those Australians who served, sacrificed and gave their lives in Afghanistan. For two decades, this man fled the consequences of his crimes. Our thoughts today are with the loved ones of all of his victims.

He added:

May they find some small solace in the knowledge that he cannot cause more grief through his acts of terror and let terrorists see that Afghanistan will never, ever be a safe haven for their hatred, their terrorism and their attacks on our humanity.

This photo from the weekend, taken in Kabul on the day of the attack, may show the smoke from the drone strike that hit Zawahiri as he stood on a balcony.

In this photograph taken on 31 July 2022, smoke rises from a house following a US drone strike in the Sherpur area of Kabul.
In this photograph taken on 31 July 2022, smoke rises from a house following a US drone strike in the Sherpur area of Kabul. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A young doctor in a Cairo slum to the public face of al-Qaida – the life of Zawahiri.

If you’re waking up to the news and need a backgrounder on Zawahiri, we have published one here:

Our correspondent Jason Burke, who has penned books both on al-Qaida and Afghanistan, has written an article on how the killing will cause the militant organisation some short-term turbulence but is unlikely to cause it any major long-term problems.

US kills al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike

Oliver Holmes

Oliver Holmes

A US drone strike in Afghanistan has killed the top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Joe Biden announced late on Monday.

The US president described the death of Zawahiri, one of the world’s most wanted men who was Osama bin Laden’s deputy and successor, as a major blow to the terrorist network behind the September 11 2001 attacks.

“Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said in a live televised address from the White House. “People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.”

Zawahiri and his family had moved into a safe house in downtown Kabul, the capital, according to White House officials. He was spotted on a balcony on numerous occasions over several months and continued to produce al-Qaida propaganda videos, some of which may yet appear posthumously.

Good morning live blog readers. Oliver Holmes here, updating you on the fallout after the announcement.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.