Al-Qaeda second in command killed in drone strike

By Khadija Patel 29 August 2011

The remaining vestiges of al-Qaeda’s terrorist network have suffered a major blow. An unmanned drone strike into the hinterlands of Pakistan is said to have taken out its much-feared second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. By KHADIJA PATEL.

The American drone campaign in Pakistan has many detractors. Not least the Pakistani government itself which complains bitterly of being undermined by the American military operation in its mountainous region. The unmanned drone campaign, Barack Obama’s preferred means of hunting down suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, is set to be boosted on the strength of its latest success.

Officially the head of operations for al-Qaeda, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman is a highly prized scalp. As well as his high rank in the network, Rahman was a vital cog in the communications system al-Qaeda communications. The New York Times reports those saucy files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s Abottabad lair revealed “Bin Laden communicated frequently with Rahman. They also showed that bin Laden relied on Rahman to get messages to other al-Qaeda leaders and ensure Bin Laden’s recorded communications were broadcast widely.”

However, Rahman seemed aware of the danger of the drones. CNN reports he sent a message to Bin Laden a year before his death complaining of the danger they presented. For all their purported successes, however, the drone strikes come at great cost to human life. With targets well infiltrated among civilians, one independent analyst  estimates 10 civilian casualties for every militant killed by drones in Pakistan.

The Americans will be buoyed by the latest success. If true, the strike was also a particularly timely one. Rahman was a Libyan national who could have held sway in the fog of transition. Stunting any al-Qaeda-affiliated influence in the “new” Libya will be paramount to American interests. DM

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