Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has died of natural causes in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Arab News reported quoting unidentified security sources in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The 69-year-old al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian-trained physician who ascended to the head of the Islamic terrorist group when founder Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in 2011, died earlier this month of asthma in Ghazni, Arab News reported quoting an unidentified al-Qaida translator.
The publication also quoted an al-Qaida source saying al-Zawahiri died of ”breathing issues” ”somewhere in Afghanistan.”
The reports were confirmed by a Pakistani security official based in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
”We believe he is no longer alive,” he said. ”We are firm that he has died of natural causes.”
The claim comes within a week of reports that al-Qaida’s second in command, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed by Israeli agents in Iran in August on intelligence provided by the United States.
Arab News quoted ”a source close to al-Qaida in Afghanistan” that a limited number of followers had attended al-Zawahiri’s funeral prayers but did not say if it was a memorial service or one conducted at his burial.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security told Arab News he was not aware of reports of al-Zawahiri’s death and had no comment on the matter.