The US has killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a drone strike in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has confirmed.
He was killed on Sunday during a CIA counterterrorism operation in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Mr Biden said Zawahiri had “carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens”.
“Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” he added.
Al-Qaeda was taken over by Zawahiri after Osama Bin Laden’s death in 2011. He was one of the US’s “most sought terrorists” and collaborated with Bin Laden in the planning of the 9/11 attacks.
The drone reportedly fired two missiles at Zawahiri as he was on the balcony of a safe house, according to officials.
Other members of the family were present, but they were unharmed, and they added that only Zawahiri was killed in the attack.
Mr Biden said he had given the final approval for the “precision strike” on the 71-year-old al-Qaeda leader after months of planning.
His killing will bring closure to families of the nearly 3,000 victims of the 2001 attacks, Mr Biden added.
“No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out,” said Mr Biden, adding that “we shall never waver from defending our nation and its people”.
According to Mr. Biden, Zawahiri was also responsible for other violent crimes, such as the suicide bombing of the USS Cole naval warship in Aden in October 2000, which claimed the lives of 17 US soldiers, and the 223-death attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
He was adamant that terrorists would never again have a safe haven in Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesman described the US operation as a clear violation of international principles.
“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and are against the interests of the United States of America, Afghanistan and the region,” the spokesman added.
However, US officials maintained that the operation had a legal basis.
The killing of Zawahiri comes nearly a year after US troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on the orders of Mr Biden, bringing an end to a 20-year military presence there.
Under a 2020 peace deal with the US, the Taliban agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in areas under their control.
However, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are long-time allies and US officials said the Taliban were aware of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that by hosting and sheltering Zawahiri in Kabul, the Taliban had “grossly violated” the peace agreement.