San Francisco Chronicle
Taliban say they didn’t know about al Qaeda leader
The Taliban said Thursday they are investigating what they described as “claims” that al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Afghan capital.
However, the group insisted in a statement that it “has no knowledge of the arrival and residence” of al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan.
The statement marked the first time the Taliban leadership addressed the U.S. announcement that al-Zawahiri was the target of Sunday’s strike. However, despite the Taliban denial, U.S. officials have said the al Qaeda head was staying at a Kabul safe house linked to the deputy leader of the Taliban. The strike killed al-Zawahiri when he stepped out onto the safe house’s balcony.
His presence in Kabul and the killing have further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, particularly at a time when they and U.S. officials have been holding talks over $3.5 billion in Afghan assets frozen in the United States.
The Taliban had promised in the Doha Agreement not to harbor al Qaeda members or those seeking to attack the U.S. In the accord, the U.S. committed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and not to attack the Taliban.
On Tuesday, the Taliban’s first statement on the strike only confirmed it had taken place, without mentioning al-Zawahiri. In it, they condemned the strike as a “clear violation of … the Doha Agreement.”
The Taliban said they ordered “the investigative and intelligence agencies to conduct serious and comprehensive investigations on various aspects of the mentioned event.”
The statement also assured the West “there is no danger from the territory of Afghanistan to any country, including America.”