Pakistan sceptical over al Qaeda leader’s death

Reluctance to confirm may stem from added US pressure to eliminate ‘terrorist havens’.

Kamran Yousaf August 29, 2011


Pakistan has refused to confirm claims by the US that al Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed last week in the tribal belt, bordering Afghanistan.

Washington announced on Saturday that Attiya abd al Rahman has been killed in North Waziristan Agency on August 22. However, it did not divulge the circumstances of his death.

Libyan national Rahman, who was in his late 30s, was a senior al Qaeda figure and among the list of most wanted men that the US handed over to Pakistan following Osama bin Laden’s death in May.

Pakistani security officials, on the other hand, were doubtful over the US claims, saying they had no compelling evidence to suggest that he was killed. “The US may have evidence but we are not sure about his death,” a senior military official told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity. “It is always very difficult to verify such high-profile killings in an area where the situation is so fluid,” he said.

Intelligence sources have said they need ‘hard evidence’ to confirm whether Rahman was indeed in the country’s tribal belt. Analysts say the security establishment’s reluctance to confirm the US claims may stem from the fact that it will put Pakistan under further pressure to eliminate ‘terrorist safe havens’ from tribal areas.

A senior Pakistani security official in Peshawar told AFP: “We have checked this news report with informers and have worked on it. I doubt the authenticity of this news.”

Another security official in Miramshah said he had received no information on the killing. “For me it is just a rumour. Frankly speaking, we are not even aware that a man with this name is working as deputy chief of al Qaeda,” he added.

Officials said the mountainous area is inaccessible. “In such cases we rely on informers. We have not received any such report,” a security official in Mir Ali town, North Waziristan, told AFP.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th,  2011.