It was 6.18am on Sunday, more than an hour after dawn prayers, when the Supreme Leader of Al Qaeda appeared on the balcony of his safe house to enjoy a little sunshine and fresh air.
For Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 terror attacks, watching mornings unfold in the centre of the Afghan capital from his supposedly secure perch had become one of the few regular pleasures of his life in hiding.
He wasn’t to know that his balcony was anything but safe and that Taliban spies in the pay of the Americans and the British had been monitoring him for months – their knowledge of his whereabouts so detailed that a scale model of his hideaway had sat on a table in President Biden’s White House office for weeks.
And they were watching him again now, not only from…
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