THE Afghan Taliban have not found the body of Ayman al-Zawahiri and are continuing investigations, group spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Mr Mujahid’s statement came after the United States said it killed the al Qaeda leader in an airstrike in Kabul last month.

The US killed Zawahiri with a missile fired from a drone while he stood on a balcony at his hideout in July, US officials said, in the biggest blow to al Qaeda since US Navy Seals shot dead Osama bin Laden more than a decade ago.

His death in Kabul raised questions about whether he received sanctuary from the Taliban, who had assured the United States as part of a 2020 agreement on the withdrawal of US-led forces that they would not harbour other militant groups.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, was closely involved in the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US and was one of the world’s most wanted men.

In an interview with Dubai-based Akhbar Al Aan earlier this week, Zabiullah Mujahid said the Taliban were sceptical about the Zawahiri incident, describing it as pure allegations with no evidence so far.

“We do not know whether Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in Kabul, or are these just rumours or allegations,” he told Al Aan’s Safa Saleh. “But the investigations are still open, and when they are over, we will announce the result with the whole world … we will share it through the media and we will not hide any result.”

To another question, he reiterated that Zawahiri’s presence had not been proven so far “by evidence”.

He admitted that al Qaeda members were present in Kabul “but 20 years ago”.

“Many of them are gone or dead. Now there is no element of al Qaeda inside the territory of Afghanistan, unless he is hidden and we do not know, and we are trying to find out about them,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2022

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