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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Al-Qa'ida reeling as attack kills terror chief

Dean Gray in London

Al-Qa'ida's second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, US and Pakistani officials said yesterday.

A Libyan national, al-Rahman never had the worldwide name recognition of Bin Laden or Bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but was regarded as an instrumental figure in the terrorist organisation, trusted by Bin Laden to oversee al-Qa'ida's daily operations.

When Navy SEALs stormed Bin Laden's compound and killed him in May, they found evidence of al-Rahman's deep involvement in running al-Qa'ida.

Al-Zawahiri is running the group but is considered a divisive figure who lacks the founder's charisma and ability to galvanise al-Qa'ida's disparate franchises.

A US official said al-Rahman's death will make it harder for Zawahiri to oversee what is considered an increasingly weakened organisation.

"Zawahiri needed Atiyah's experience and connections to help manage al-Qa'ida," the official said.

Al-Rahman was killed last Monday in the lawless Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, according to a senior administration official.

A Pakistani intelligence official said al-Rahman died in a US missile strike in Machi Khel village in north Waziristan.

Intelligence officials had said at the time that four people were killed in the attack. But a CIA drone strike was reported that day in Waziristan.

Such strikes by unmanned aircraft are Washington's weapon of choice for killing terrorists in the mountainous, hard-to-reach area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Al-Rahman joined Bin Laden as a teenager in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union and once served as his personal emissary to Iran.

He was allowed to move freely in and out of Iran as part of that arrangement and has been operating out of Waziristan for some time, officials have said.

The Libyan national, who was the network's former operational leader, rose to be the second most important figure in the organisation after the death of Bin Laden in May.

Al-Zawahiri assumed control, with al-Rahman acting as organisational coordinator.

"Al-Zawahri was relying heavily on him," said a US official.

Irish Independent

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