U.S. drone strike kills al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan
Plus, migrant workers in the Persian Gulf are converting to Pentecostalism and other news from around the globe
Douglas Sidialo lost his sight in al-Qaeda’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya in 1998. The twin attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed more than 200 people and injured more than 4,500 others.
Sidialo, who now serves as the spokesman of the Kenyan victims’ association, welcomed the U.S. report this week of the death of top al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. “It’s good that it has happened—that they’re bringing down those who were behind these heinous and barbaric acts,” he told the BBC.
Two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone took out al-Zawahri on Sunday as he stood on the balcony of a safe house where he had been hiding for months in a Kabul, Afghanistan, neighborhood. While victims of the terrorist group found some closure in the report, al-Zawahri’s presence and death could signal the Taliban is reneging on its commitment not to shelter international insurgents.
In an address Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed the drone strike and said al-Zawahri had continued to coordinate al-Qaeda’s global operations while in hiding. “He made videos, including in recent weeks, calling for his followers to attack the United States and our allies,” Biden said. “Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more.” In a letter this week, families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks also welcomed the effort to remove “such evil from our lives.”
Al-Zawahri was one of the founding members of al-Qaeda in the late 1980s. He took on the leadership role after the United States killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, but he was playing less of an operational role at the time of his death. U.S. security officials had been tracking him as far back as April. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday posted a worldwide caution, warning that al-Zawahri’s death could heighten the possibility of anti-American violence.
Al-Zawahri’s presence in Kabul violated the Doha agreement signed ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. The Taliban had conceded the country would not serve as a base for groups or individuals that could attack the security of the United States and its allies. The Taliban said in a statement it wasn’t aware of al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul and warned the United States would bear responsibility for any future breach on Afghan territory.
Analysts expect the leadership of the insurgent group may fall next to Saif al-Adel, who is currently in Iran. “Tehran and al-Qaeda have made common cause against their shared enemies in recent years,” said Nathan Sales, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “We’ll need to keep a close eye on what their relationship looks like if, as expected, Saif ascends to al-Qaeda’s top role.”
CHINA: Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus was first recorded, locked down Jiangxia district last week after detecting four asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. Officials ordered its almost 1 million residents to stay inside their homes for three days, the first time they imposed a lockdown since 2020. China has a “zero COVID” strategy that includes local lockdowns, mass testing, and movement restrictions. Macau, the Chinese territory known as a global gambling hub, went into lockdown on July 11 and only reopened on Tuesday, after recording no new cases for nine consecutive days.
NEW ZEALAND: For the first time since closing its borders in March 2020 as a pandemic measure, New Zealand fully reopened on Monday. It’s now open even to travelers who need visas, including international students, and is permitting cruise ships and foreign recreational yachts to dock. The phased reopening began in February, first allowing vaccinated citizens to return from Australia, then those from elsewhere. In May, New Zealand welcomed visitors from visa-waiver countries.
NICARAGUA: President Daniel Ortega’s government has gone after opposition figures and organizations critical of him in recent months. But on Monday authorities shut down six radio stations belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, said Rev. Rolando Àlvarez, the bishop of the northern province of Matagalpa. Police also occupied the parish house in Sebaco, where one of the radio stations is located, said Àlvarez, a vocal critic of the president. In recent months, authorities have shuttered more than 1,000 nongovernmental groups. Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in November in elections that foreign governments denounced as a sham.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Residents in the DRC’s restive North Kivu province are demanding the departure of the United Nations peacekeeping mission as tensions rise. A UN peacekeeping brigade killed at least two people and injured several others along the Ugandan border on Sunday, the UN confirmed. That followed a week of protests, where chanting residents blocked roads and used stones to break into the mission’s headquarters and logistical base in the city of Goma. Similar protests broke out in the city of Butembo. At least 22 people, including 16 civilians, died in the violence. Protesters accuse the peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians and colluding with some of the 120 armed groups active in the region. The outcry against the mission followed calls by Senate President Modeste Bahati and the youth wing of the ruling party for the mission to withdraw “because it has already proved its incapacity to provide us with protection.”
EUROPE: The parliament building and two opera houses are among some 200 locations in the German capital of Berlin that will no longer leave lights turned on at night. In Spain, a new law passed Monday stops offices and stores from setting their thermostats below 81 degrees in the summer. The measures are some of the ways European nations are trying to shore up gas ahead of winter as Russia cuts its energy supply. Authorities are asking people to join in the efforts by taking shorter showers, using fans over air-conditioning, and skipping the clothes dryer and air-dry laundry instead. The Italian government has also suggested limits on cooling and heating in buildings.
THE GULF: Migrant workers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are increasingly converting to Pentecostalism, The Guardian reported on Sunday. About 30 million migrants—often employed in construction, hospitality, and domestic jobs—live in these countries. They commonly face exploitation and even sexual abuse. As their home governments want to maintain good trade relations and are reluctant to confront wealthy Gulf states about human rights violations, Pentecostal churches serve as these laborers’ de facto unions with some even helping rape victims escape. The exact number of Pentecostal converts—including those from Catholicism, Islam, and Hinduism—is unknown since such conversions are sensitive in the Gulf, but church leaders and researchers agree it’s a significant increase.
When it became clear on Tuesday that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would visit Taiwan and reports about China’s ban on Taiwanese imports and its escalation of military drills around the island started surfacing, I checked in with my American friend who’s been living in Taiwan for more than 15 years. “We are used to our neighbor to the north constantly grumbling about any other country showing any favor to Taiwan,” she messaged me back, “but this threat seems to have ratcheted things up a notch.” Still, “the main fear continues to be COVID, with geopolitical tensions maybe coming in second. I’m sure it will be bumped up to first if war actually breaks out. But God is in complete control, so we carry on!”
WORLD correspondent Joyce Wu contributed to this report.
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