Ayman al-Zawahiri killed: This al Qaeda chief’s habit helped the CIA launch a ‘precision strike’
New York: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri loved to ‘read alone’ on the balcony of his Kabul safe home early in the morning, a “pattern-of-life intelligence” that eventually led to the US intelligence taking over the CIA. One of the world’s most wanted terrorists was killed in a precise attack, a report said. Zawahiri, who played a key role in the 9/11 attacks and later formed a regional ally of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, was killed in a US drone strike on Saturday evening.
“Intelligence officers made an important discovery this spring after tracking al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in Kabul, Afghanistan: He loved to read early in the morning, alone on the balcony of his secure home,” The New York Times (NYT) ) said in a report titled ‘How the CIA Tracked the Leader of Al Qaeda’.
The report said analysts look for “pattern-of-life intelligence,” which means the CIA can exploit any habit to hunt down and target terrorists. “In the case of al-Zawahari, his long balcony visits gave the agency an opportunity for a clear missile shot that could have avoided collateral damage,” it said.
Once intelligence agencies confirmed the location of Zawahiri’s safe house, “the CIA followed the playbook it wrote during its search for (Osama) bin Laden. The agency made a model of the site and tried to know everything about it.” “Analysts eventually identified a man who stayed on the balcony to study but never left the house, as al-Zawahiri,” the NYT report said.
On July 25, Biden authorized the CIA to conduct airstrikes “when the opportunity presented itself”. The report said, “In Kabul on Sunday morning, this happened. A drone flown by the CIA was found on the balcony of al-Zawahari. The agency’s operatives fired the missile, ending the more than two-decade-long hunt.”
US President Joe Biden announced on Monday that Zawahiri, who took over the reins of al-Qaeda after the killing of Osama bin Laden 11 years ago, was killed in a US drone strike. “Justice has been done and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.
The NYT report said that on April 1, top intelligence officials briefed national security officials at the White House about the safe house and how they tracked down Zawahiri.
One of the “key insights” that emerged about Zawahiri’s pattern of life was that “he was never seen leaving the house and only got fresh air standing on a balcony on the upper floor. He stayed on the balcony for an extended period of time, which gave the CIA a good chance to target him.”
The al-Qaeda leader was killed by a Hellfire missile, which is “designed to kill one person.” The report said Biden was briefed on July 1 by CIA Director William Burns and other intelligence officers and shown a model of the safe house.
Biden asked about the “possibility of collateral damage,” imploring Burns to “take him” through “how the authorities found al-Zawahari and confirmed his information, and through their plans to kill him.”
During June and July, discussions focused on intelligence and investigations into the possible effects of the strike. The report said the “safe house” where Zawahiri stayed was owned by “colleagues of senior officials in the Haqqani network” in an area of the Afghan capital controlled by the militant group.
“Senior Taliban leaders occasionally met at home, but US officials did not know how many people knew Haqqani was hiding al-Zawahari. If some senior Taliban officials did not know that Haqqani had allowed al-Zawahari to return, his assassination could drive a wedge between the groups, the report said, citing independent analysts.
It said Zawahiri’s ties with the leaders of the Haqqani network “led US intelligence officers to the safe house” where he was hiding. The report said that for many years it was believed that Zawahiri was hiding in Pakistan’s border area and it is not clear why he returned to Afghanistan. Zawahiri’s family is believed to have returned to a safe home in Kabul following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
The NYT report said that while his family tried to ensure that he was not tracked and Zawahiri’s location was kept secret, “intelligence agencies soon learned that he too returned to Afghanistan.” Is.
“There were renewed efforts to find out where he is,” the report quoted former CIA officer Mick Mulroy as saying. “One of the good things that can happen from withdrawing from Afghanistan is that some high-level militants will then think it is safe for them to live there.”