Anti-U.S. protests erupt in Afghanistan

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FILE PHOTO: Osama bin Laden with advisor Ayman al-Zawahiri during interview

KABUL – Hundreds of Afghans carried anti-American banners on Friday to protest against a U.S. drone strike that Washington says killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this month.

The protests were launched a day after the Taliban said their government had no information about Zawahiri “entering and living” in capital city Kabul and warned the United States to never repeat an attack on Afghan soil.

Photos shared on social media showed protesters in at least seven Afghan provinces carrying banners reading “Down with USA”, “Joe Biden, stop lying” and “America is a liar”.

Zawahiri, the top leader of the hardline Islamist militant group, was killed with a missile fired from a drone while he stood on a balcony at his Kabul hideout on Sunday, U.S. officials stated, the biggest blow to the militants since U.S. Navy SEALS shot dead Osama bin Laden more than a decade ago.

Zawahiri’s death in Kabul raised questions about whether he received sanctuary from the Taliban, who had assured the United States as part of a 2020 agreement on the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces that they would not harbour other militant groups.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the name the Taliban use for the country and their government – warned Washington that “if such incidents are repeated again and if the territory of Afghanistan is violated then responsibility for any consequences will be on United States.”

The Taliban gained complete control over Afghanistan on Aug. 15 last year after U.S. led foreign forces withdrew and top Afghan leaders including the country’s president fled, marking an end to two decades of war.

(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Writing by Rupam Jain, editing by Ros Russell)

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