Taliban claim they were unaware of al-Qaida leader in Afghanistan

Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman speaks during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)

ISLAMABAD (AP) - The Taliban said Thursday they are investigating what they described as "claims" that al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Afghan capital.

However, the group insisted in a statement that it "has no knowledge of the arrival and residence" of al-Zawahri in Afghanistan.

The statement marked the first time the Taliban leadership addressed the U.S. announcement that al-Zawahri was the target of Sunday's strike. However, despite the Taliban denial of knowledge of al-Zawahri's presence, U.S. officials have said the al-Qaida head was staying at a Kabul safe house linked to the deputy leader of the Taliban. The strike killed al-Zawahri when he stepped out onto the safe house's balcony.

His presence in Kabul and the killing have further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, particularly as Afghanistan's rulers seek an urgent infusion of cash to handle the catastrophic collapse of the economy that came after the U.S.