WASHINGTON - Al-Qaida's new second-in-command, Atiyah abd al-Rahman, was killed earlier this week in Pakistan, dealing a "major blow" to the group still reeling from the death of Osama bin Laden, US officials said on Saturday.
Rahman, a Libyan national, rose to the number two spot when Ayman al-Zawahri took the reins of al-Qaida after bin Laden was killed in May in a US raid in Pakistan.RELATED:
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Officials did not say how Rahman was killed, but said it happened in Waziristan in northwest Pakistan where intelligence officials believe members of al-Qaida are hiding out.
"Atiyah's death is a tremendous loss for al-Qaida, because (Zawahri) was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since bin Laden's death," one US official said.
"The trove of materials from bin Laden's compound showed clearly that Atiyah was deeply involved in directing al-Qaida's operations even before the raid. He had multiple responsibilities in the organization and will be very difficult to replace," the official said.
Another US official said that "there's no question this is a major blow to al-Qaida. Atiyah was at the top of al-Qaida's trusted core."
Rahman ran daily operations for the group, spoke on behalf of bin Laden and Zawahri and was the one that "affiliates knew and trusted" and his death will make it more difficult for Zawahri to consolidate control, the official said.
"He planned the details of al-Qaida operations and its propaganda. His
combination of background, experience, and abilities are unique in al-Qaida-without question, they will not be easily replaced," the official
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month on a
visit to Afghanistan that he believed the strategic defeat of al-Qaida
was within reach if the United States could kill or capture up to 20
remaining leaders of the core group and its affiliates.
his demise underscores what Leon Panetta has been saying for some time
about al-Qaida: it's important to sustain intense pressure on this group
of terrorists and thugs," a third senior US official said.
back on al-Qaida 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."