Taliban say they didn’t know Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Kabul after al-Qaeda leader killed in US drone strike

The Taliban said on Thursday they were investigating what they said was the “claims” of the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri Killed in a US drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul and said they had “no information” about him “arriving and staying” there.

The statement was the first time the Taliban had spoken out on Sunday. Drone strike kills head of al-Qaeda network On the balcony of a Kabul safe house, which U.S. officials say is linked to Taliban leaders.

The killing of al-Zawahiri has further heightened tensions between the Taliban and the West, especially as the Taliban sought an emergency infusion of cash to deal with Afghanistan’s economic catastrophe after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan a year ago.

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In Thursday’s statement, the Taliban appeared to address those concerns.

They said they “have directed investigative and intelligence agencies to conduct a full and serious investigation into all aspects of the incident” and assured that “Afghan soil poses no threat to any country, including the United States, and the Islamic emirate wants to implement the Doha Treaty, Violations of this treaty must end.”

The strikes earlier on Sunday woke up Shirpur, a once historic district that was levelled in 2003 to make way for mansions of officials from Afghanistan’s Western-backed government and international aid groups. After the U.S. pulled out of the country in August 2021, Taliban executives moved into some of the abandoned houses there.

U.S. officials said al-Zawahiri was staying at the home of a senior aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajddin Haqqani. Haqqani is the deputy leader of the Taliban, serves as interior minister in the Taliban government and leads a network of Haqqani, a powerful faction in the movement.

The Haqqani Network is an Afghan Islamic insurgency group built around the family of the same name. In the 1980s it fought against Soviet forces, and for the past 20 years it has fought US-led NATO forces and the former Afghan government. The U.S. government maintains a $10 million reward for Sirajuddin Haqqani for attacks on U.S. troops and Afghan civilians.

But the Haqqanis from Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province have rivals within the Taliban leadership, mainly from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some believe that Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures have opposed Haqqani’s attacks on civilians in Kabul and elsewhere during the insurgency.

In the first half of 2022, Zawahiri increasingly reached out to supporters with video and audio messages, including assurances that al-Qaeda could compete with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to lead a global movement. The United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Group said.

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