Top leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban were discussing Wednesday’s response to a US drone strike in Kabul that the United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Reuters reported, citing three sources in the group. .
The United States on Sunday killed Zawahiri with a drone-fired missile while standing on a balcony at his Kabul base, US officials said, in the biggest blow to the militants killed Osama bin Laden more than a decade ago went.
The Taliban have not confirmed Zawahiri’s death.
Officials of the Islamic group, a long-time ally of al Qaeda, initially confirmed Sunday’s drone strike but said the house that was hit was empty.
“There are meetings at a very high level on whether they should respond to the drone strike, and if they decide, what is the proper course of action,” the Taliban leader, who holds a key position in Kabul, told Reuters.
The official, who said there had been a lengthy leadership discussion for two days, declined to be identified. He did not confirm that Zawahiri was in the house where the missile struck.
The Taliban’s response could have significant consequences as the group seeks international legitimacy, and access to billions of dollars in frozen funds after the defeat of the US-backed government a year 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.
His death in Kabul raises questions about whether he had received asylum from the Taliban, who had assured the United States as part of a 2020 deal on the withdrawal of US-led forces that would provide asylum to other terrorist groups. will not give.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the agreement by hosting and sheltering Zawahiri.
Outside a tight circle of top Taliban leaders, members of the group appeared in the dark about whether Zawahiri was indeed 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 in the house.
The Taliban’s designated representative to the United Nations, Suhail Shaheen, who is based in Doha, told reporters that he had not received any information about the Taliban’s situation.
“I await the details and response from Kabul,” he told reporters in a message.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)