Pakistani media claimed in a report on Friday that Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead.
“Egyptian national Ayman Al-Zawahiri, 69, has died in Afghanistan likely of natural causes, several sources in Pakistan and Afghanistan told Arab News this week, just days after reports of the Al-Qaeda leader’s passing made the rounds on social media,” the news site reported.
At least two senior commanders who would have replaced Zawahiri are both dead: Hamza bin Laden, the son of Al Qaeda assassinated chief Osama bin Laden – who was killed in a US counter terrorism operation last year – and Abu Muhammad al-Masri, allegedly assassinated by Israeli agents in a recent US-ordered operation in Iran.
At least two security sources in Pakistan and Afghanistan confirmed Zawahiri’s death, according to Arab News, although both spoke off the record as they were not authorized to speak to media.
“He [Zawahiri] died last week in Ghazni,” said an Al-Qaeda translator with close ties to the group, who spoke to Arab News on Tuesday. “He died of asthma because he had no formal treatment.”
Likewise, a Pakistani security official based in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan also said Zawahiri had died, saying, “We believe he is no longer alive,” he said, declining to be named. “We are firm that he has died of natural causes.”
Zawahiri served as the Number 2 for Osama Bin Laden and took over the terrorist organization after Bin Laden was assassinated by US Navy Seals in 2011.