- The Taliban have not confirmed the death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
- Taliban leader says meetings are taking place on whether they should respond to the drone strike.
- US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken says the Taliban have “seriously violated” the agreement by hosting and harboring al-Zawahiri.
KABUL: Top Afghan Taliban leaders were discussing Wednesday how to respond to a US drone strike in Kabul that killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, three sources in the group said.
The US killed al-Zawahiri in a drone-fired missile as he stood on the balcony of his compound in Kabul on Sunday, US officials said, more than a decade after Osama bin Laden was killed. This is the biggest blow for the militants.
The Taliban have not confirmed Zawahiri’s death.
Officials from the group, a longtime al-Qaida ally, initially confirmed Sunday’s drone strike but said the home targeted was unoccupied.
“There are very high-level meetings about whether they should respond to the drone strike, and if they decide to do so, what is the appropriate course of action,” said a senior Taliban leader in Kabul. ‘. Reuters.
The official, who said there were lengthy discussions on leadership over two days, declined to be identified. He did not confirm that Zawahiri was present in the house that was hit by the missile.
After the fall of the US-backed government a year ago, the Taliban’s reaction could have significant ramifications as the group seeks international legitimacy, and access to billions of dollars in frozen funds.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, was closely involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and is one of the world’s most wanted men.
His death in Kabul raises questions about whether he was sheltered by the Taliban, who had assured the United States that they would fight other militants as part of a deal to withdraw US-led forces in 2020. Will not give shelter to like groups.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the agreement by hosting and harboring al-Zawahiri.
Outside a narrow circle of top Taliban leaders, members of the group appeared in the dark about whether Zawahiri was actually in Kabul, let alone his fate.
Another Taliban official confirmed the high-level meetings but said he did not know what was being discussed and did not believe Zawahiri was at home.
Sohail Shaheen, the Taliban’s designated representative at the United Nations based in Doha, told reporters that he had not received any word about the Taliban’s position.
“I am waiting for details and response from Kabul,” he told reporters in a message.