Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's family was being kept under the protection of the Haqqani network, a notorious terror organisation run by two brothers and their uncle who are closely associated with both Al Qaeda and the Taliban - which returned to rule in Afghanistan last August after America's shambolic withdrawal, the media reported. 

Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the group's founder Jalaluddin, is the current Interior Minister for the Taliban government and leader of the network. One of his aides is thought to own the house where Zawahiri's family moved, the Daily Mail reported.

The strike was the culmination of six months of intensive intelligence work by the CIA which had tracked Zawahiri to the safe house, detailed his daily routine, and picked the ideal moment to hit him.

US officials said the operation dates back to April, when they received intelligence that Zawahiri's wife, their daughter, and her children had moved into a safe house in Kabul, in the old diplomatic quarter that used to house Western officials and embassies.

Over the course of three months the US carried out painstaking work to confirm that Zawahiri was also living there, which culminated with multiple sightings of him spending 'sustained periods' on the balcony, Daily Mail reported.

Spies constructed a scale-model replica of the home and, through 'multiple intelligence sources', built up a detailed picture of Zawahiri's daily routine - trying to pick the ideal moment to strike him.

Photos of Zawahiri's safe-house after the attack appear to show how the Hellfire missiles smashed through the floor of the balcony and into the room below, breaking one window and blowing out another, Daily Mail reported.

Despite Zawahiri's family being at home at the time - intelligence suggests they never left the building in all the months they lived there - the US says nobody other than the terrorist leader was killed. 

Members of the Haqqani network are said to have swarmed the home shortly afterwards, moving Zawahiri's surviving relatives to a new location.

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