Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden's successor, sheltered by Pakistan's ISI: Report

Devyani Sultania
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda

Former Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden's mentor and successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is also a wanted terrorist, is likely to be hiding under the protection of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) in Karachi, a US media report has said.

The ISI has been protecting al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born Al-Qaeda leader and trained surgeon, since the US security forces evicted the terrorist group from Afghanistan in 2001, Newsweek reported quoting several authoritative sources. "His most likely location today, they say: Karachi, the teeming port city of 26 million people on the Arabian Sea," the magazine said.

"Like everything about his location, there's no positive proof... There are pretty good indications, including some of the material found in Abbottabad (Pakistan)," where Laden was killed, "that point in that direction," Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran who was the top adviser on South Asia and the Middle East for the past four US presidents, told the Newsweek.

"This would be a logical place to hide out, where he would feel pretty comfortable that the Americans can't come and get him," he added. Riedel also said that Karachi would prove to be a "very hard" place for the US to carry out a similar commando raid that helped kill Laden on May 2, 2011. "If he was in someplace along the border with Afghanistan, I think the temptation would be enormous to go after him. But in Karachi, that would be stunning and very difficult," Riedel said.

In January 2016, the US forces had carried out a drone strike against al-Zawahiri in the remote Shawal Valley in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. But it was unsuccessful as the al-Qaeda chief survived the strike, the weekly reported saying that its information was based on a Pakistani source who wished to remain anonymous.

Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden

The unnamed source added that five of al-Zawahiri's security guards died, but he survived. "The drone hit next to the room where Dr Zawahiri was staying. The shared wall collapsed, and debris from the explosion showered on him and broke his glasses, but luckily he was safe," the source said, adding that the Al-Qaeda chief had "left the targeted room to sleep just 10 minutes ahead of the missile that hit that room."

The unnamed source further added that al-Zawahiri had pledged that he would not be taken prisoner alive and that he has a "desperate last wish" for a big attack against the US "before folding his eyes." The Newsweek also added that al-Zawahiri, who is now 66 years old, has survived many drone strikes.

According to a forthcoming book called The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in Flight, authored by British journalists Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, al-Zawahiri had been residing in Pakistan's lawless semi-autonomous tribal region since 2005. The book added that he was "married to a local Pashtun girl, (al-Zawahiri) had been given a new home, a large mud-brick compound up in the hills" at Damadola in Pakistan.

One of Taliban's former ministers also told the Newsweek that al-Zawahiri and Al-Qaeda are "no longer welcome" in areas controlled by his group as it is now engaged in peace negotiations with the Afghan government and does not want to be seen as "a threat to world peace."

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