On Sunday, Ayman al-Zawahri walked onto the balcony of a safe house in Afghanistan. Unbeknownst to him, U.S. intelligence officials had studied his routine for months. Now that routine would end in a deadly missile strike from U.S. drones.
The United States announced a successful operation: Ayman al-Zawahri, leader of al-Qaeda, has been killed.
To understand why the United States would do such a thing, it helps to look at al-Zawahri himself.
In 2001, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 killed nearly 3,000 Americans. (See Seeking Justice 20 Years after 9/11.) Osama bin Laden, then leader of the terrorist network al-Qaeda, coordinated that attack. Bin Laden soon became the subject of a decade-long manhunt. His photo dominated the news. But in many of those photos, another man stood by his side: Ayman al-Zawahri.
As a boy, al-Zawahri immersed himself in a violent branch of Sunni Islamic teaching. As a man, he abandoned his career as a surgeon for a radical path. He befriended bin Laden and was even present at al-Qaeda’s founding. Together, bin Laden and al-Zawahri planned the 9/11 attacks.
The United States found and killed bin Laden in 2011. Al-Zawahri became the leader of al-Qaeda and remained at large—until now.
U.S. intelligence officials planned the strike for months. They learned al-Zawahri’s patterns. They made a scale model of his safe house and used that to show President Biden exactly where the strike would hit. They carefully calculated to make sure the missiles would hit only al-Zawahri—no civilians harmed.
God guarantees justice, even when it seems like justice may never come. The Bible tells us God uses earthly governments for that purpose—they don’t “bear the sword in vain.” (Romans 13:4) By eliminating al-Zawahri, the United States helps bring justice for the 9/11 attacks of two decades ago. U.S. officials also believe the strike will prevent Afghanistan—now controlled by the violent Taliban regime—from becoming the base of more terrorist attacks.
President Biden hopes the death of al-Zawahri will bring more closure to the families of 9/11 victims.
For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. — Matthew 26:52
(Ayman al-Zawahri addresses the camera on an Arab news network in 2006. AP/Al-Jazeera)