The State Department on Tuesday warned American citizens traveling overseas of possible retaliation by al-Qaida and its supporters after the organization’s leader was killed in a U.S. missile strike.
In a Worldwide Caution Update, the department said it believed “there is a higher potential for anti-American violence given the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri on July 31, 2022.”
“Current information suggests that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions across the globe.”
“As terrorist attacks often occur without warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness when traveling abroad,” the department added in the update.
Zawahiri was killed Sunday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, when he stepped out onto the balcony of his residence and a drone fired Hellfire missiles, according to a senior administration official, who added that there were no other casualties.
The U.S. operation involved several months of intelligence work to track his family to Kabul and identify the target, according to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
“This mission really took shape over the course of the last six, seven months. It was really sort of early this year, as you heard the president say, that we got indications that Mr. Zawahiri had moved into Afghanistan,” Kirby told CNN on Tuesday.
The Egyptian-born Zawahiri, 71, took control of al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden, the terrorist organization’s founder, was himself killed by American forces in Pakistan in 2011.
President Joe Biden, in remarks Monday night at the White House, described Zawahiri as an instrumental player in the planning of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and the “mastermind” behind multiple assaults against Americans, including the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in 2000.
Biden said the strike showed the U.S. was committed to preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a haven for terrorist groups a year after the chaotic pullout of American forces from the country, comments echoed by Kirby on Tuesday.