Taliban claims it has ‘no information’ about al-Qaeda leader living openly in Afghan capital

Taliban jihadists claimed in an official statement on Thursday that they had “no information” about the very visible presence of now former al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, Afghanistan, where U.S. airstrikes wiped out last weekend he.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan for nearly a year after leftist President Joe Biden announced he would break a deal with the Sunni terror group brokered by his predecessor Donald Trump to extend the 20-year war in Afghanistan until May 1, 2021 , the mutually agreed deadline.

Taliban leaders responded to Biden’s move by announcing they would no longer abide by the deal — which would require the Taliban to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terror groups — and successfully launch a campaign to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in the capital. sports. By July 2021, a Taliban spokesman denied that they had agreed to sever ties with al Qaeda.

Biden himself announced on Monday that a U.S. strike in Kabul’s wealthy Sherpur neighborhood had killed Zawahiri, allegedly causing minor injuries and no other casualties. After the United States eliminated longtime leader Osama bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri took over the terrorist group that planned the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States.

The Taliban leader’s initial response was to condemn the U.S. airstrikes as a violation of the Taliban’s “sovereignty” as the normal government of Afghanistan, with no mention of al-Zawahiri at all.

On Thursday, top spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued an updated statement claiming that Taliban officials were unaware that al-Zawahiri was in Kabul, had “no information” on how he got there, and would investigate the matter. “investigation”.

“Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban] There is no information on Ayman al-Zawahiri’s arrival and stay in Kabul,” Mujahid wrote in the statement. “The leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have directed investigative and intelligence agencies to conduct a full and serious investigation into all aspects of the incident. “

Mujahid stressed that no entity active in Afghanistan — presumably including al-Qaeda, the Taliban that provided a safe haven in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks — posed a threat to the United States.

“Afghan soil poses no threat to any country, including the United States, the Islamic Emirate wants to implement the Doha Treaty, and violations of that Treaty must end,” the statement read. “The United States has invaded our territory and violated all international principles, and we This action is again strongly condemned. Should such action be taken again, the responsibility for any consequences rests with the United States of America.”

The “Doha Agreement” is an agreement brokered by the Trump administration and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar in 2020. The Taliban have previously claimed that Biden’s decision to prolong the war in Afghanistan functionally ended the Doha deal, although it has also frequently continued to accuse Washington of violating it.

Taliban leaders similarly complained on Tuesday that the airstrikes violated the Doha agreement.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns the attack for any reason and says it is a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement,” Mujahid wrote in the Taliban’s initial statement on the attack. “Such an action is a repetition of the failures of the past 20 years and is not in the interests of the United States, Afghanistan and the region. Repeating such actions would damage the opportunities available.”

Responding to the airstrikes, Mujahid initially did not acknowledge any connection between the airstrikes and al-Qaeda or al-Zawahiri.

Like Mujahid, the Taliban’s unofficial ambassador to the United Nations, Sohail Shaheen, told reporters on Thursday that his group did not know Zawahiri’s whereabouts. Reuters.

FILE - In this 1998 file photo provided on Friday, March 19, 2004, Ayman al-Zawahiri, left, during a news conference with Osama bin Laden in Khost, Afghanistan Listen. A U.S. airstrike has killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with the matter. President Joe Biden will speak at the White House on Monday night, August 1, 2022, about the operation.  (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, file)

FILE/In this 1998 file photo, Ayman al-Zawahiri, left, listens during a news conference with Osama bin Laden in Khost, Afghanistan, Friday, March 19, 2004 . (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, file)

“The government and leadership have no knowledge of what is being claimed and there is no trace of it,” Shaheen said. “An investigation is now underway to establish the veracity of the claim.”

The circumstances surrounding Zawahiri’s presence in one of the most elite areas of the Taliban capital make it unlikely that the jihadists didn’t know he was in the city, unless the Taliban have far less control over Afghanistan than evidence suggests, or Its security apparatus is very incompetent.many Report In a sign that Zawahiri made no effort to hide his presence, the public can see him often hanging out on his balcony – where the air strikes took place.

The report cited unspecified “intelligence reports” and U.S. officials claiming that the house where Zawahiri lived belonged to anyone Senior Taliban leader, al-Qaeda liaison Haqqani network head Sirajuddin Haqqani or Haqqani’s “senior aide” Own.

White House spokesman John Kirby said in a televised interview on Monday that “we know that some senior leaders of the Haqqani network are aware” of al-Zawahiri’s presence in the city. “And we know that from the way they’ve tried to cover things up in the last 24, 48 hours. … Look, I mean, even if the president decides to end that war, al Qaeda is still in Afghanistan, we know that, We talked about that, and al Qaeda has re-established its presence there.”

Haqqani is a New York Times– Published columnist, wrote a article 2020 titled “What We Taliban Want” for a far-left newspaper. era Describing Haqqani as “the deputy leader of the Taliban”.

Shortly after the fall of Kabul last year, the Biden administration denied ties between the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

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