The Taliban broke their silence on Thursday, days after an American drone killed the leader of al-Qaeda in the Afghan capital, acknowledging his murder and pledging to open an investigation.
The killing of Ayman al-Zawahri on the balcony of a Kabul shelter on Sunday has further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, especially as he seeks an urgent injection of cash to deal with a economic disaster after the American withdrawal from the country a year ago.
“The government and the leaders were not aware of what was being claimed, nor any trace there,” Suhail Shaheen, head of the group’s political office in Doha, Qatar, told The Associated Press in a statement. SMS.
This claim, however, is in direct contradiction to what US officials said about the strike. They say al-Zawahri was staying at the home of a senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. Haqqani is the deputy leader of the Taliban, serves as interior minister in his government and leads the Haqqani Network, a powerful faction within the movement.
The Taliban had promised in the 2020 Doha agreement with the United States that they would not harbor members of al-Qaeda or those seeking to attack the United States.
An “investigation is currently underway to find out the veracity of the allegation. The management is in constant meeting in this regard. The results will be shared with all,” Shaheen added.
The early Sunday strike rocked Shirpur, once an area of historic buildings that were bulldozed in 2003 to make way for luxury homes for officials from the Western-backed Afghan government and international aid organisations. After the US withdrawal in August 2021, senior Taliban people moved into some of the abandoned houses there.
The Haqqani Network is an Afghan 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 Afghan government. The US government is maintaining a $10 million bounty on Sirajuddin Haqqani for attacks on US troops and Afghan civilians.
But the Haqqanis, who hail from Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, have rivals within the Taliban leadership, mainly from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some think Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures opposed Haqqani attacks on civilians in Kabul and elsewhere during the insurgency.
During the first half of 2022, al-Zawahri increasingly reached out to his followers with video and audio messages, including assurances that al-Qaeda can rival the ISIS group for the leadership of a movement. global, a report from Analytical Support and the Sanctions Monitoring Team said.