The Taliban said on Thursday they were investigating what they described as “allegations” that the al-Qaida leaderwas killed in a US drone strike in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and said they had “no information” about his “arrival and stay” there.
The statement was the first time the Taliban had spoken on Sundayon the balcony of a safe house in Kabul that US officials said is linked to a Taliban leader.
The killing of al-Zawahiri has further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, particularly as the Taliban seek an urgent cash drain to deal with an economic disaster in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal from the country a year ago.
The Taliban had promised in the 2020 Doha Agreement with the US that they would not harbor al-Qaeda members or those seeking to attack the US
In Thursday’s statement, the Taliban appeared to address those concerns.
They said they had “instructed the investigative and intelligence agencies to conduct a comprehensive and serious investigation into the various aspects of the incident” and assured that “there is no threat to any country, including America, from the territory of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate wants to implement the Doha pact and the violation of the pact must stop.”
The strike early Sunday rocked Shirpur, once a district of historic buildings that were bulldozed in 2003 to make way for luxury homes for officials of Afghanistan’s Western-backed government and international aid agencies. After the US withdrawal from the country in August 2021, senior Taliban moved into some of the abandoned houses there.
US officials said al-Zawahiri was staying at the home of a top aide to senior Taliban leader Shirajuddin Haqqani. Haqqani is the deputy head of the Taliban, serves as interior minister in their government and heads the Haqqani network, a powerful faction within the movement.
The Haqqani network is an Afghan Islamic insurgent group built around the family of the same name. In the 1980s, it fought Soviet forces, and for the past 20 years, it has fought US-led NATO troops and the former government of Afghanistan. The US government maintains a $10 million bounty on Sirajuddin Haqqani for attacks on US troops and Afghan civilians.
However, the Haqqani, from Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province, have rivals in the Taliban leadership, mainly from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some believe that Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures have spoken out against Haqqani attacks on civilians in Kabul and elsewhere during the insurgency.
In the first half of 2022, al-Zawahiri increasingly reached out to supporters with video and audio messages, including assurances that al-Qaeda could compete with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group for leadership. a global movement. said the United Nations Sanctions Analytical Support and Monitoring Group.