According to a Taliban spokesman on Thursday, the group’s leadership was unaware of the presence of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in Kabul and is looking into a US “claim” that he was killed in a US drone strike there.
The largest blow to the extremists since Osama bin Laden was assassinated more than ten years ago came on Sunday when Zawahiri was killed by a missile fired from a drone while he was standing on a balcony at his hideout in Kabul, according to US authorities.
Suhail Shaheen, a Doha-based Taliban representative to the UN, told media in a message that “The government and the leadership weren’t aware of what is being claimed, nor any trace there.”
He stated that an investigation was currently being conducted to determine the validity of the accusation and that the findings would be made public.
Regarding the Sunday drone hit, Taliban commanders have mainly kept quiet and have not acknowledged Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul or his demise.
Three sources within the Taliban indicated that senior commanders had been debating how to react to the US drone strike for some time.
Following their overthrow of a US-backed government a year ago, the Taliban are seeking international recognition and access to billions of dollars in frozen cash, and how they respond might have a big impact.
One of the most sought-after persons in the world, Zawahiri, is an Egyptian doctor who had a key role in the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
His death in Kabul raises concerns about whether he was given refuge by the Taliban, who had given the US assurances that they would not host other extremist groups as part of a 2020 deal on the withdrawal of US-led forces.
Shaheen declared that Afghanistan was committed to the pact which was inked in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
By hosting and protecting Zawahiri, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Taliban had “grossly violated” the deal.