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What Utahns in Congress say about U.S. killing of al-Qaida leader

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President Joe Biden meeting with CIA Director William Burns and other CIA and national security advisers.

This photo provided and digitally altered by the White House shows President Joe Biden meeting with CIA Director William Burns, left, and other CIA and national security advisers about al-Qaida leaders and their locations on July 1, 2022, in the White House Situation Room.

Adam Schultz, The White House via Associated Press

Members of Utah’s congressional delegation applauded the U.S. killing of an al-Qaida leader who helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States that left nearly 3,000 people dead.

A CIA-operated drone strike over the weekend killed Ayman al-Zawahiri as he stood on the balcony of his house in Kabul, Afghanistan. While not as well-known as Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was his top deputy.

President Joe Biden said the airstrike on Saturday came at his direction. “Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” he said.

Utahns in Congress say the world is safer with al-Zawahiri dead.

“The United States will never forget the horror of 9/11 and the countless other terrorist attacks at the hand of al-Qaida. I applaud our intelligence and counterterrorism community for remaining vigilant in tracking down Ayman al-Zawahiri. The world is a safer place,” Sen. Mitt Romney said in a tweet.

Sen. Mike Lee tweeted that “good has triumphed over evil and the world is better and safer for it.”

Rep. Chris Stewart praised the military and the intelligence community while taking a shot at Biden.

“I’m so proud of our military and Intelligence Community for this successful mission. Al-Zawahiri was an evil man who has been brought to justice,” Stewart tweeted.

“But we did this in spite of @POTUS’ leadership, not because of it. His surrender of Afghanistan continues to threaten our security.”

The Biden administration drew heavy criticism for the way it handled the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan last year that resulted in the deaths of 13 American service members, including Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover of Utah.

Stewart blamed Biden for allowing the Taliban to seize Kabul during the withdrawal, and he called for the secretary of defense to resign while questioning whether top U.S. military leaders are “historically incompetent.”

Romney said he couldn’t think of a bigger “mess up” than the way the Biden administration has handled the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies — and that includes what happened at the end of the Vietnam War.

“The death of al Qaeda leader Zawahiri is good for America. A man responsible for attacks in Kenya, Tanzania, on the USS Cole, and on 9/11 has met his end,” Rep. John Curtis said.

Biden in remarks at the White House said al-Zawahiri carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats and American interests. 

For decades, he was a mastermind behind attacks against Americans, including the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors and wounded dozens more, the president said. Al-Zawahiri also played a key role in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 and wounding over 4,500 others. 

Rep. Blake Moore said al-Zawahiri has been an enemy of the U.S. and its allies since those embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. He said he’s proud to the CIA and the military and commended the Biden administration on the successful attack.

“Nevertheless, the fact remains al-Zawahiri was given safe harbor in a home owned by the Taliban in downtown Kabul. The entire world should be concerned by the direction of future terrorist activity stemming from Afghanistan,” he tweeted.