AL-Qa'ida's number two Atiyah abd al-Rahman has been killed in Pakistan, the US says, claiming another "tremendous" blow to the group following the death of Osama bin Laden.
News of Rahman's demise comes as the US gears up to mark the 10th anniversary of al-Qa'ida's most spectacular attack, on September 11, 2001 on landmarks in Washington and New York, which killed nearly 3000 people.
Rahman, a Libyan, was killed in the northwest tribal Waziristan area on August 22 after being heavily involved in directing operations for al-Qa'ida, a senior US official said, without divulging the circumstances of his death.
However, local officials in the region told AFP last week that a US drone strike on August 22 on a vehicle in North Waziristan killed at least four militants. It was not clear if the two incidents were connected.
The senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the death of Rahman would be deeply felt by al-Qa'ida because the group's new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had relied on him since US Navy Seals killed bin Laden on May 2.
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Killing a blow to terror network The Australian, 1 day ago
Battered al-Qa'ida down but not out The Australian, 2 days ago
Global reach of extremism The Australian, 2 days ago
'100 attacks' - al-Qa'ida's deadly promise Herald Sun, 10 days ago
Al-Qa'ida still growing threat: US The Australian, 19 Aug 2011
End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
Bin Laden also died in Pakistan, in a sprawling house he was holed up in close to a military academy.
The death of Rahman, who had a $1-million bounty on his head and was said to be an explosives expert, represented "a tremendous loss for al-Qa'ida", the senior official said.
"The trove of materials from bin Laden's compound showed clearly that (Rahman) was deeply involved in directing al-Qa'ida's operations even before the raid," the official said.
"He had multiple responsibilities in the organisation and will be very difficult to replace."
Details about Rahman are sketchy and he is not nearly as high profile as bin Laden or Zawahiri.
According to US authorities, Rahman, who was in his late thirties, was appointed personally by bin Laden and was al-Qa'ida's emissary in Iran, recruiting and facilitating talks with other Islamic groups to operate under al-Qa'ida.
He joined bin Laden in Afghanistan as a teenager in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union.
Rahman's death represents another success for President Barack Obama's intensified and often clandestine operations against al-Qa'ida, particularly in the northwestern tribal regions in Pakistan which Washington says is the group's lair.
In his weekly radio and Internet address today, Obama called on Americans to recreate the national unity that emerged after the September 11 attacks, and noted that "We're taking the fight to al-Qa'ida."
Another senior US official said "news of (Rahman's) demise underscores what (Defence Secretary) Leon Panetta has been saying for some time about al-Qa'ida: it's important to sustain intense pressure on this group of terrorists and thugs.
"Dialing back on al-Qa'ida leadership in Pakistan, especially while they try to regroup after Bin Laden's death, isn't the way to go. For the sake of our national security, they need to be knocked out for good," the official stressed.
The Washington Post cited unnamed officials in July as saying that evidence taken from bin Laden's compound suggested the al-Qa'ida founder was concerned about the impact drone attacks were having on his organisation when he died.
Washington has called Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region where Rahman died the global headquarters of al-Qa'ida, where Taliban and other al-Qaida-linked networks plot attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden was killed in his compound in Abbottabad in a daring raid by US special forces soldiers deep into Pakistan, and the soldiers seized large amounts of intelligence about the group's operations.
In July, Panetta said that the "strategic defeat" of al-Qa'ida was "within reach" and that 10-20 key operatives had been targeted in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and north Africa.
August 7th 2011 Taliban Shoot Down U.S. military helicopter
Insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter during fighting in eastern Afghanistan, killing 30 Americans, most of them belonging to the same elite Navy SEALs unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as seven Afghan commandos, U.S. officials said Saturday. It was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the decade-old war.
The downing was a stinging blow to the lauded, tight-knit SEAL Team 6, months after its crowning achievement. It was also a heavy setback for the U.S.-led coalition as it begins to draw down thousands of combat troops fighting what has become an increasingly costly and unpopular war.
None of the 22 SEAL personnel killed in the crash were part of the team that killed bin Laden in a May raid in Pakistan, but they belonged to the same unit. Their deployment in the raid in which the helicopter crashed would suggest that the target was a high-ranking insurgent figure.
Special operations forces, including the SEALs and others, have been at the forefront in the stepped up strategy of taking out key insurgent leaders in targeted raids, and they will be relied on even more as regular troops pull out. Source
U.S. Says it Killed Taliban Behind Helicopter Attack
By JULIAN E. BARNES And DION NISSENBAUM
U.S. forces killed the Taliban fighters responsible for shooting down a CH-47 Chinook and killing 30 American service members, the top international commander in Afghanistan announced Wednesday.
An airstrike involving F-16 fighter planes killed multiple militants around midnight Monday, said Gen. John Allen, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force.
In a statement, ISAF officials said the strike occurred early Tuesday and killed both Mullah Mohibullah, a Taliban leader, as well as the insurgent believed to have fired the shot that brought down the Chinook carrying a team of Navy SEALs, other American service members and seven Afghans.
The attack on the Chinook was the worst single incident in a decade of war. But Gen. Allen said the operation that began Friday night was no different from dozens of other raids carried out every night in Afghanistan.
Gen. Allen said the slain service members had been dispatched in the Chinook as a quick-reaction force to pursue Taliban fighters trying to escape as a ground force moved in on the original objective. "There were elements that were escaping, and we committed a force to contain them," Gen. Allen said.
The original ground force was sent in to the Tangi valley to pursue a high-value Taliban leader who ran a network of insurgents. Gen. Allen said that that Taliban leader still hadn't been captured. "We will continue to pursue him," he said.
The SEALs killed in the Chinook's downing were from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as SEAL Team Six, one of the two most elite commando units. But Gen. Allen defended the use of the team for the weekend mission and said using the team to pursue any militants who tried to escape was always part of the original mission.
Gen. Allen said an investigation into the downing of the Chinook, a relatively slow-moving aircraft, had begun. But he said the CH-47 had been used without incident in countless raids over the course of the Afghan war, and he didn't believe it was a mistake to use the aircraft in the operation.
The helicopter was fired on by insurgents armed with assault rifles as it approached its objective, but military officials still believe it was brought down by a rocket-propelled-grenade strike.
After the attack on the Chinook, the military continued to track the insurgents responsible, waiting for an opportunity to strike at them.
"We tracked them and dealt with them in a kinetic strike," Gen. Allen said.