Taliban: No threat from Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) — The Taliban said Thursday they have no knowledge of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan and there was “no threat” to any country from Afghanistan’s soil.

A carefully phrased Taliban statement neither confirmed the al-Qaeda chief’s presence in Afghanistan nor acknowledged his death, but carried the first official mention of his name since Sunday’s strike that United States (US) President Joe Biden announced.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has no information about Ayman al-Zawahiri’s arrival and stay,” Thursday’s Taliban statement said.

“The leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has instructed the intelligence agencies to hold a comprehensive and serious investigation.”

Taliban officials had previously conceded that a US drone strike had taken place in an upmarket Kabul suburb, but gave no details of any casualties.

Washington said earlier this week that Zawahiri’s presence was a clear violation of the Doha agreement signed in 2020 that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan a year ago.

The Taliban, in turn, said Washington had breached the accord.

“The fact that America invaded our territory and violated all international principles, we strongly condemn the action once again,” the statement said.

“If such action is repeated, the responsibility of any consequences will be on the United States of America.”

Zawahiri’s assassination is the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, and calls into question the Taliban’s promise not to harbor militant groups.

The US led an invasion in 2001 that toppled the first Taliban government, after the hardline Islamist group refused to hand over bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks.

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