KABUL (REUTERS) – Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had a US$25 million (S$34.50 million) US bounty on his head, survived years in Afghanistan’s rugged mountains, but his last months were spent in an upscale Kabul neighbourhood where top officials from the Taliban also live.

US officials said Hellfire missiles from a US drone killed the 71-year-old when he came out on the balcony of a safe house in Kabul on Sunday morning.

US President Joe Biden said no civilians were killed.

The Taliban confirmed an air strike on a residential house in the Sherpoor area of Kabul, but said there were no casualties.

Zawahiri moved to a “very safe place” in Kabul a few months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August last year, a senior leader of the radical group told Reuters on Tuesday (Aug 2) on the condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the drone strike and called it a violation of “international principles”.

Two Taliban spokesmen did not respond to Reuters request seeking details about Zawahiri’s death.

Unverified pictures on social media of what was described as the target of the attack showed shattered windows of a pink building, its fences topped with rolls of barbed wires.

The house appeared two to three stories tall and ringed by trees.

Sherpoor is a quiet, leafy part of Kabul with large houses, where former Afghan general and ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum had lived, among other local dignitaries.

Some houses have swimming pools in their attached gardens.

US and Nato embassies are within a few km of the area.