Taliban says investigating US claim of killing al Qaeda leader

i24NEWS - Reuters

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Taliban fighters stand guard as bus transports Afghan internally displaced to their homes to the east, at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camp in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 28, 2022.
Wakil KOHSAR / AFPTaliban fighters stand guard as bus transports Afghan internally displaced to their homes to the east, at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camp in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 28, 2022.

'The government and the leadership weren’t aware of what is being claimed, nor any trace there'

The Taliban are investigating a US "claim" that Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in Kabul, a Taliban official said on Thursday.

US officials said on Sunday that Zawahiri was killed by a missile fired from a drone while he stood on a balcony at his Kabul hideout, the biggest blow to the militants since Osama bin Laden was killed over a decade ago. 

Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, was closely involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and was one of the world's most wanted men.

"The government and the leadership weren’t aware of what is being claimed, nor any trace there," Suhail Shaheen, the designated Taliban representative to the United Nations, who is based in Doha, told journalists in a message, according to Reuters

"Investigation is underway now to find out about the veracity of the claim," he said, adding that the investigation results would be shared publicly.

Taliban leaders have remained largely tight-lipped about the Sunday drone strike and have not confirmed the presence or death of Zawahiri in Kabul.

Three sources in the group said that top Taliban leaders have been holding discussions on how to respond to the drone strike, Reuters reported. 

Zawahiri's death in Kabul raises questions about whether he received sanctuary from the Taliban. The latter assured the United States as part of a 2020 agreement on the withdrawal of US-led forces that they would not harbor other militant groups.

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