‘Details of Zawahiri hiding in plain sight were shared from within Kabul after which the US intelligence got into the picture’.

New Delhi: The killing of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri, who was eliminated in a drone strike by the American forces at 7.18 am (IST) in the morning of 31 July, came days after he released his last video in which he spoke on India-related issues, including the Hijab controversy.The said video was made public on 6 April by pro-Al Qaeda social media accounts.
As per reports, this is the same time when the inputs about Zawahiri being present in Kabul was first confirmed by officials tracking him in Washington. The same, then subsequently, was shared with President Joe Biden.Less than 120 days after this video coming online, Zawahiri—who was being searched by multiple US and world intelligence agencies and has successfully evaded them for almost 24 years since August 1998, despite carrying a reward of $25 million on his head—was dead.
Whether the US agencies were able to find out about his location as a result of the movement caused by the April video or was his location shared by leaders within the Taliban or it reached the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through the Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is a matter of speculation. However, what can be stated with certainty is that Zawahiri entered Kabul only after being invited by the Taliban leadership and it was they who arranged for his accommodation.
Kabul is a closely guarded town due to the threat of Islamic State terrorists and any movement of vehicle is closely monitored and has to go through multiple Taliban-manned checkpoints and hence any one moving to a “protected” area like Sherpur, where Zawahiri was accommodated, can only enter there after getting permission from the top leadership of Taliban.
According to people associated with two armed groups, who have a formidable presence in the Af-Pak region, the details of Zawahiri hiding in plain sight in the Sherpur area of Kabul was shared from within Kabul after which the US intelligence got into the picture.
Going by this claim, the theory that Zawahiri’s death was a result of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) gains more acceptance.While hinting at an insider job, the people who spoke to The Sunday Guardian could not confirm the motive behind the act of revealing the house where Zawahiri was staying or how this intelligence reached the CIA.
These claims sound plausible when one considers that the house in the Sherpur locality where Zawahiri was staying is about 2 km and 6-minute drive from the office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) 01 Unit, the erstwhile Afghan intelligence agency located at the Wazir Akbar Khan road.
While most of these embassies are locked post the takeover of Taliban in August 2021, the NDS assets, establishments and equipment, including the one at Wazir Akbar road, is now handled by personnel of Interior ministry, that is led by SirajuddinHaqqani, who also is head of the Haqqani network of armed groups.
Incidentally, Rahmattulah Nabil, the former head of the NDS, was among the first who tweeted about US drones flying in the Kabul airspace on the morning of 30 July and striking at different locations. His tweets came about four hours after the drone strike.
On that day, a spokesperson of the interior ministry, Abdul NafiTakoor, while confirming that a “rocket” strike had taken place in Kabul, had said that the rocket hit an empty residence in the Sherpor area of Kabul city while adding there were “no casualties”.“A rocket hit a house in the Sherpor area of Kabul this morning at around 6:00 am in PD10 of Kabul. The house was empty; thus the rocket did not result in any casualties,” he had told the local media despite the Taliban cadre immediately reaching Zawahiri’s house and getting a confirmation about his death.
The two stories house in which Zawahiri had moved sometime in the latter part of 2021, was also surrounded by multiple embassy buildings, including that of Iran, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and walking distance from the famous “Barg continental” restaurant.
No attempt was made to “conceal” the house, thereby indicating that Zawahiri and his personal staff responsible for his safety went by the words of the people (Taliban leadership)who moved him there that there was no need for him to stay in hiding and that the place was safe and secure.
This is in sharp contrast to the incredible safety measures that were employed by Osama Bin Laden at his house in Abbottabad, Pakistan to ensure that he is not spotted, by satellites in the sky and eyes on the street. When Laden was killed in May 2011, the nature of intelligence generating assets that the U.S had on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan were much more than what it has now.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), America’s intelligence agency, seeking confirmation about the timeline of Zawahiri’s being “found”. The CIA declined to comment. Officials in the US administration, however, told The Sunday Guardian that it would be “incorrect” to say that his location was revealed to the agency by an “insider”.
The 6 April video of Zawahiri had also confirmed to the world audience that he was indeed alive, unlike the perception that he was dead, as he had commented on a development that had just happened a few days ago of the video being shot. (The incident he referred to, of a girl in Karnataka being subjected to sloganeering for wearing Hijab, took place on 8February).
The last public appearance of the 71-year-old Zawahiri, before the April video, was a 38-minute video in November 2021 in which he spoke against the United Nations. Before that, in September 2021, he had released another video on the occasion of 20 years of the 9/11 attack.