WASHINGTON: US officials on Saturday confirmed that al Qaeda number 2 Atiyah Abd-al Rahman had been killed in Waziristan, Pakistan on August 22.
Speaking to Express Tribune, a US official said that this was a major blow to al Qaeda (AQ). “Atiyah was at the top of al Qaeda’s trusted core. He ran daily operations for the group since Shaykh Sa’id al-Masri was killed last year, and has been Zawahiri’s second-in-command since Bin Laden’s death in May.”
According to the US official, al-Rahman was known and trusted by AQ affiliates and was entrusted with speaking on behalf of both Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. “He planned the details of al Qaeda operations and its propaganda. His combination of background, experience, and abilities are unique in al Qaeda—without question, they will not be easily replaced. Zawahiri needed Atiyah’s experience and connections to help manage al Qaeda. Now it will be even harder for him to consolidate control.”
Speaking to Express Tribune, another senior US administration official said that “Atiyah’s death is a tremendous loss for al Qaeda, because Zawahiri was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organisation, especially since Bin Laden’s death. The trove of materials from Bin Laden’s compound showed clearly that ‘Atiyah was deeply involved in directing al Qaeda’s operations even before the raid. He had multiple responsibilities in the organisation and will be very difficult to replace.”
The US officials declined to confirm the circumstances around Atiyah’s death, but a drone strike was reported to have taken place on August 22 in North Waziristan that killed four people.
Al-Rahman is believed to have risen to the No. 2 position in the al Qaeda chain of command after US forces had killed its leader, Osama bin Laden in a covert raid on a compound in Pakistani town of Abbottabad in early May.
The then second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri took over reigns of the terror outfit, paving way for al-Rahman to be promoted.
It is believed that Zawahiri along with much of senior al Qaeda and Taliban leadership are hiding in the mountainous tribal regions of Pakistan that border Afghanistan.
A former CIA station chief who had been posted in Islamabad, while giving an exclusive interview to Express 24/7 said that he believed no one in the Pakistani leadership had knowledge of Osama bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad.