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Former Foreign Secretary Warns Of “Risk” Of Reprisals For Killing Of Al-Qaeda Leader


3 min read

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has said there is “always” a risk of reprisals after the US confirmed it had killed the leader of al-Qaeda.

President Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday that the leader of the terrorist group, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been killed by CIA forces in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday.

Zawahiri had worked with former al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden to plan the 9/11 terrorist attacks which killed over 3,000 people, and succeeded him as leader following Bin Laden’s death in 2011. 

"Since the United States delivered justice to bin Laden 11 years ago, Zawahiri has been a leader of al-Qaeda," President Biden said. 

"From hiding, he co-ordinated al-Qaeda's branches and all around the world, including setting priorities for providing operational guidance and calling for and inspired attacks against US targets."

"Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more," he added.

According to US officials, Zahawiri was killed via a targeted drone strike while he stood on the balcony of a safe house. No one else was killed in the strike.

Commenting on the news, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said “no one's going to shed a tear for this very evil man” and added that his death “sends a very powerful signal to people who have tended to underestimate the strength of America and the West”.

“What this shows is that the technology at the disposal of the United States and its allies remains the most formidable of any in the world,” he told Sky News.

“Sometimes we take a while to get our act together, but in the end, the West will react when our values are under threat.”

Asked if there was a risk of reprisal attacks following the strike, Hunt, who served as foreign secretary from 2018 to 2019, said states “always run that risk” when carrying out such action.

He continued: “What we've learned from what's happened in Ukraine is that sometimes weakness is a bigger provocation than strength.

“And our enemies, who don’t agree with our way of life or accept our values, need to understand that the West is going to be strong and resolute in the face of challenges to our way of life.”

Hunt added that he agreed with those concerned that the presence of Zawahiri in Kabul suggested that the Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan in 2021, was not keeping to its pledges not to harbour terrorists.

“I'm afraid a lot of people will draw that inference,and I slightly draw that inference as well,” he said.

“I think that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a very big low point, for many, many reasons. 

“But this was the most important thing of all, we were supposed to be negotiating, that Afghanistan would not go back to being a harbour for terrorists. I think this indicates that we can't be sure that's not the case.”

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