Taliban Spokesman Dismisses Reports Militants Are Sheltering Al-Qaeda's Leader in Afghanistan
Reports that Al-Qaeda Number One Ayman Al-Zawahiri is being harboured by the Taliban are untrue, Mohammad Naim, a spokesman for the movement, told Sputnik.
Publish date : 9/16/2021
Publish Time : 14:59:00

"This is a lie. It has nothing to do with the truth," Naim said.

On Sunday, Michael Morell, an intelligence analyst who served as President Barack Obama's CIA Director between 2011 and 2013, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that US intelligence believes Zawahiri is living in Afghanistan.

"We think so, which means that the Taliban is harbouring Zawahiri today. The Taliban is harbouring Al-Qaeda today. And I think that's a very important point," Morell said.

The retired CIA chief did not elaborate on the allegation.

Over the weekend, Zawahiri was reportedly spotted in a video released on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Intelligence analysts speculated that the footage is not necessarily recent, and could been filmed anytime since February 2020 and the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

Rumours that the 70-year-old terror leader had died began circulating in November. However, intelligence agencies in the US and other countries have provided no solid proof that he was deceased.

Zawahiri served as Al-Qaeda's number two for decades under Osama bin Laden. After bin Laden's alleged liquidation in a US Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan, Zawahiri became leader of the terrorist group.

Al-Qaeda and its international terrorist activities became overshadowed by the rise of Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) in the mid-2010s and the latter group's creation of a 'caliphate' across wide swathes of Syria and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Taliban officials and emissaries have repeatedly promised not to allow Al-Qaeda fighters and other foreign terrorists to take refuge in areas under their control. The commitment not to shelter Al-Qaeda was one of the terms of the US-Taliban peace deal in Doha in February 2020, which ultimately culminated in last month's chaotic withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan.

Despite its commitments, the Taliban continues to maintain that the US has yet to provide it with firm evidence that bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks - which served as the formal pretext for the US invasion and +19 year occupation of Afghanistan.

The Taliban established de-facto control over almost all of Afghanistan last month after the collapse of the Western-backed Kabul government. The militants have promised Russia, the United States and other countries that they would not allow Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to operate in territories under their control.

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