Pakistan’s ISI is sheltering Al-Qaida chief, says report

Revelation Al-Zawahiri most likely in Karachi under the protective eye of the spy agency, claims Newsweek

Karachi : Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has been sheltering al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in the port city of Karachi after he survived a drone strike in a remote area near the Afghan border last year, according to a report in Newsweek.

Egypt-born Zawahiri, a trained surgeon, has been protected by the ISI since US forces evicted al-Qaeda from Afghanistan in late 2001, Newsweek quoted several authoritative sources as saying. His “most likely location”, the sources said, is Karachi. “Like everything about his location, there’s no positive proof,” said 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.

“There are pretty good indications, including some of the material found in Abbottabad (the Pakistani garrison town where Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011) that point in that direction,” Riedel said, adding, “This would be a logical place to hide out, where he would feel pretty comfortable.”

In the first week of January 2016, the Obama administration carried out a drone strike to target Zawahiri in the remote Shawal Valley in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. An unnamed senior militant leader in the region said Zawahiri survived but five of his security guards were killed.

Zawahiri had been in Pakistan’s lawless semi-autonomous tribal region since 2005, according to the forthcoming book, The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight, by British journalists Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy.

Riedel said Karachi was an ideal hideout for Zawahiri because it would be a “very hard” place for the US to conduct the kind of commando raid that killed Laden. Unlike the sleepy garrison town of Abbottabad, the city of 26 million has a major nuclear complex and hosts naval and air bases, from where forces could quickly be scrambled to intercept foreign raiders.

A former top Pakistani official who maintains close ties with the Islamabad government would confirm only that Zawahiri is “in a large Pakistani city”. Karachi “makes sense” as a sanctuary the official said, given its sympathies for militant Islam, congested 19th-century streets and large military presence.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, an eye surgeon who helped found the Egyptian Islamic Jihad militant group, took over the leadership of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in 2011

  • Before that, Zawahiri was often referred to as Laden’s right-hand man and the chief ideologue of al-Qaeda
  • He is believed by some experts to have been the operational brains behind 9/11
  • The al-qaeda  chief has now pledged allegiance to the new Afghan Taliban chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour
  • Although al-Zawahiri had long been bin Laden’s presumed successor, US officials present him as a far less potent threat

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