Sunday, August 28, 2011

CIA Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda's No. 2


CIA Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda's No. 2

C.I.A. Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda’s No. 2



SUNDAY, AUGUST 28, 2011

C.I.A. Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda’s No. 2



C.I.A. Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda’s No. 2

WASHINGTON — A drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency killed Al Qaeda’s second-ranking figure in the mountains ofPakistan on Monday, American and Pakistani officials said Saturday, further damaging a terrorism network that appears significantly weakened since the death of Osama bin Laden in May.
Atiyah Abd al-Rahman

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Atiyah Abd al-Rahman

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An American official said that the drone strike killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan who in the last year had taken over as Al Qaeda’s top operational planner. Mr. Rahman was in frequent contact with Bin Laden in the months before the terrorist leader was killed on May 2 by a Navy Seals team, intelligence officials have said.
American officials described Mr. Rahman’s death as particularly significant as compared with other high-ranking Qaeda operatives who have been killed, because he was one of a new generation of leaders that the network hoped would assume greater control after Bin Laden’s death.
Thousands of electronic files recovered at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, revealed that Bin Laden communicated frequently with Mr. Rahman. They also showed that Bin Laden relied on Mr. Rahman to get messages to other Qaeda leaders and to ensure that Bin Laden’s recorded communications were broadcast widely.
After Bin Laden was killed, Mr. Rahman became Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader under Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Bin Laden.
There were few details on Saturday about the strike that killed Mr. Rahman. In the months since Bin Laden’s death, the C.I.A. has maintained a barrage of drone missile strikes on mountainous redoubts in Pakistan, a bombing campaign that continues to strain America’s already turbulent relationship with Pakistan.
The C.I.A almost never consults Pakistani officials in advance of a drone strike, and a Pakistani government official said Saturday that the United States had told Pakistan’s government that Mr. Rahman had been the target of the strike only after the spy agency confirmed that he had been killed.
The drone strikes have been the Obama administration’s preferred means of hunting and killing operatives from Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups. Over the past year the United States has expanded the drone war to Yemen and Somalia.
Some top American officials have said publicly that they believe Al Qaeda is in its death throes, though many intelligence analysts are less certain, saying that the network built by Bin Laden has repeatedly shown an ability to regenerate.
Yet even as Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen and North Africa continue to plot attacks against the West, most intelligence analysts believe that the remnants of Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan have been weakened considerably. Mr. Rahman’s death is another significant blow to the group.
“Atiyah was at the top of Al Qaeda’s trusted core,” the American official said. “His combination of background, experience and abilities are unique in Al Qaeda — without question, they will not be easily replaced.”
The files captured in Abbottabad revealed, among other things, that Bin Laden and Mr. Rahman discussed brokering a deal with Pakistan: Al Qaeda would refrain from mounting attacks in the country in exchange for protection for Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan.
American officials said that they found no evidence that either of the men ever raised the idea directly with Pakistani officials, or that Pakistan’s government had any knowledge that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.
Mr. Rahman also served as Bin Laden’s liaison to Qaeda affiliates. Last year, American officials said, Mr. Rahman notified Bin Laden of a request by the leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to install Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric, as the leader of the group in Yemen.
That group, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, apparently thought Mr. Awlaki’s status as an Internet celebrity, for his popular video sermons, and his knowledge of the United States might help the group’s fund-raising efforts. But according to the electronic files in Abbottabad, Bin Laden told Mr. Rahman that the group’s leadership should remain unchanged.
After Bin Laden’s death, some intelligence officials saw a cadre of Libyan operatives as poised to assume greater control inside Al Qaeda, which at times has been fractured by cultural rivalries.
Libyan operatives like Mr. Rahman, they said, had long bristled at the leadership of an older generation, many of them Egyptian like Mr. Zawahri and Sheikh Saeed al-Masri.
Mr. Masri was killed last year by a C.I.A. missile, as were several Qaeda operations chiefs before him. The job has proved to be particularly deadly, American officials said, because the operations chief has had to transmit the guidance of Bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri to Qaeda operatives elsewhere, providing a way for the Americans to track him through electronic intercepts.
Mr. Rahman assumed the role after Mr. Masri’s death. Now that Mr. Rahman has died, American officials said it was unclear who would take over the job.
The death of Al Qaeda's second-in-command last week represents a major blow to Al Qaeda and its central leadership, but is unlikely to damage the group's largely independent chapters throughout the Muslim world, said an expert on extermist Islam, Omar Ashour.
Mr. Ashour, a professor of Middle East Studies at Exeter University, said the death of Atiyah Abdel al-Rahman, a Libyan national, removes one of the only remaining figures in the Al Qaeda leadership who could serve as both an ideological guide and an operational leader.
An Obama administration official said that Mr. Abdel al-Rahman, who recently became deputy to new Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri after the death of Osama Bin Laden, was killed in the remote Pakistani region of Waziristan on Saturday Following the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and other high-ranking Al Qaeda officials, Mr. Abdel al-Rahman remains one of the only top operatives with a strong pedigree in both militia and terror tactics as well as Islamist ideology.
"In terms of theology, it's very dry right now for Al Qaeda," said Prof Ashour. "This was one of the few who gathered both tactics: Being an experienced actvist and a theologian at the same time."
Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's theological experience and qualifications added to Al Qaeda's religious legitimacy, and his death could help diminish Al Qaeda's credibility and attractiveness to new members.
Most of Al Qaeda's ideological heavy-weights have either been killed or grew disillusioned and left the movement, said Mr. Ashour.
For example, Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's seminary training allowed him to issue fatwas, or opinions on Islamic jurisprudence. Even Al Qaeda's newly minted leader, the Egyptian Ayman Al Zawahiri, does not have the required theological background to issue such lasting decisions on Islamic law.
"He wasn't a main figure for issuing fatwas, but if you need him now in 2011 to get some theological credibility, you could rely on him," said Mr. Ashour.
Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's influence also extended to more practical matters. He was an important point of contact for Iranian Sunni militants, said Mr. Ashour. And reports show that he may have recently been put in charge of the group's financial portfolio.
Nevertheless, the impact of his death will do more to damage Al Qaeda's central structure -- a component of the broader organization that was already becoming progressively weaker -- than its potential as a threat.
Mr. Ashour agreed with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's announcement that the United States was within striking distance of crippling "Al Qaeda as a major threat," but cautioned that Al Qaeda's strength stretches beyond its central nerve-structure.
Geographical chapters or franchises of Al Qaeda already serve more powerful functions within the group as operational cells and as points of recruitement for new operatives.
"It's weakening the center" Mr. Ashour said. "But it's not necessarily weakening Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or Al Qaeda in Yemen or in Iraq."
The more immediate benefit from Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's death may be to the post-revolutionary political future of Libya.
Despite Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's importance to Al Qaeda's central leadership, he also maintained strong ties to his native Libya and to jihadist organizations, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who may be looking for ways to assert themselves following the fall of Muammar Qadhafi. Their task may now be harder without Mr. Abdel al-Rahman.
Following the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and dozens of other high-ranking Al Qaeda officials, Mr. Abdel al-Rahman remains one of the only top operatives with a strong pedigree in both militia and terror operations as well as Islamist ideology.
"In terms of theology, it's very dry right now for Al Qaeda," said Prof Ashour. "This was one of the few who gathered both tactics: Being an experienced actvist and a theologian at the same time."
Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's theological experience and qualifications added to Al Qaeda's religious legitimacy, and his death could help diminish Al Qaeda's credibility and attractiveness to new members.
Most of Al Qaeda's ideological heavy-weights have either been killed or grew disillusioned and left the movement, said Mr. Ashour.
For example, Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's seminary training allowed him to issue fatwas, or opinions on Islamic jurisprudence. Even Al Qaeda's newly minted leader, the Egyptian Ayman Al Zawahiri, does not have the required theological background to issue such lasting decisions on Islamic law.
"He wasn't a main figure for issuing fatwas, but if you need him now in 2011 to get some theological credibility, you could rely on him," said Mr. Ashour.
Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's influence also extended to more practical matters. He was an important point of contact for Iranian Sunni militants, said Mr. Ashour. And reports show that he may have recently been put in charge of the group's financial portfolio.
Nevertheless, the impact of his death will do more to damage Al Qaeda's central structure -- a component of the broader organization that was already becoming progressively weaker -- than its potential as a threat.
Mr. Ashour agreed with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's announcement that the United States was within striking distance of crippling "Al Qaeda as a major threat," but cautioned that Al Qaeda's strength stretches beyond its central nerve-structure.
Geographical chapters or franchises of Al Qaeda already serve more powerful functions within the group as operational cells and as points of recruitement for new operatives.
"It's weakening the center" Mr. Ashour said. "But it's not necessarily weakening Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or Al Qaeda in Yemen or in Iraq."
The more immediate benefit from Mr. Abdel al-Rahman's death may be to the post-revolutionary political future of Libya.
Despite the Libyan national's importance to Al Qaeda's central leadership, he also held strong ties with jihadist organizations in Libya, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who may be looking for ways to assert themselves following the fall of Muammar Qadhafi. Their task may now be harder without Mr. Abdel al-Rahman.








Death of deputy chief deals heavy blow to al Qaeda

Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Atiyah abd al-Rahman, is pictured in this handout photograph obtained on August 27, 2011. Rahman was killed earlier this week in Pakistan, dealing a ''major blow'' to the group still reeling from the death of Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said on August 27, 2011. REUTERS/National Counterterrorism Center/Handout

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LONDON | Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:51pm IST
(Reuters) - The killing of al Qaeda's number two leader deprives the group of a multi-talented manager who helped it spawn offshoots around the world and survive a U.S. counter-terrorism campaign in Pakistan, security analysts say.
U.S. officials said on Saturday that Atiyah abd al-Rahman, a Libyan, was killed earlier this week in Pakistan. One official said he was killed in a strike by an unmanned drone on Aug. 22.
The killing is likely to be particularly highly prized by Washington as U.S. strategists would have been concerned about Rahman's potential influence in Libya's turmoil following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, analysts say.
Rahman, in his 40s and from the coastal Libyan town of Misrata, built a reputation in al Qaeda as a thinker, organiser and trusted emissary of the Pakistan-based central leadership to its offshoots.
In particular he played a key role in managing ties between the core leadership and al Qaeda in Iraq and helped negotiate the formation in 2007 of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) with a group of Algerian Islamist guerrillas.
He was also one of the first al Qaeda leaders to provide a response to the uprisings in the Arab world, urging the group's supporters to cooperate with the revolts even if the rebellions were not Islamist-inspired.
"It's immensely important that he's been killed," said Anna Murison, who monitors Islamist violence for Exclusive Analysis, a London-based risk consultancy.
She said he was widely trusted throughout the organisation and Islamists from very varied backgrounds listened to him.
QAEDA LOOKS "FINISHED"
"Al Qaeda as an idea will live on, but al Qaeda core as an organisation looks pretty much finished as there are so few people who can now move up into those senior ranks," she said.
She said he was one of only four people in al Qaeda's leadership with a global profile in the small but passionate transnational community of violent Islamist militants.
She rates these as al Qaeda's current leader Ayman al-Zawahri, Egyptian plotter Saif al-Adl, and the other Libyan in al Qaeda's central leadership, the theologian Abu Yahya al-Libi.
Rahman rose to the number two spot when al-Zawahri took the reins of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed in May in a U.S. raid in Pakistan.
Noman Benotman, a former Libyan Islamist and now an analyst at Britain's Quilliam think tank, said his death was a heavy blow to al Qaeda as he was its main organiser and manager.
"This was the one man al Qaeda could not afford to lose," Benotman said. "He was the CEO of al Qaeda who was at the heart of the management process of al Qaeda worldwide.
Benotman said that in the last two years he "more or less single-handedly" kept al Qaeda together.
"He was a strong decision maker, an excellent debater and a skilled peacemaker between various Islamist groups."
FOUGHT IN ANTI-SOVIET AFGHAN WAR
Benotman said Rahman, whose real name was Jamal Ibrahim Ishtawi, was a graduate of the engineering department of Misrata University and left Libya to go to Afghanistan in 1988 and join the Islamist groups then fighting Soviet occupation.
He said Rahman was a personal acquaintance of his but was never a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamist guerrilla organisation that waged a failed insurgency to topple Gaddafi in the 1990s and of which Benotman was a leader.
Rahman was one of al Qaeda's earliest members and worked for the anti-Western militant group in Algeria and Mauritania as well as Afghanistan, Benotman said.
In a statement posted on militant online forums on Feb. 23, Rahman acknowledged that the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia were not the "perfections for which we hoped," but they were happy occasions nonetheless.
He dismissed the notion that al-Qaeda has a "magic wand" to gather large armies and lead the charge to overturn governments and rescue besieged Muslims, according to a translation by the Site Intelligence Group, a U.S. monitoring company.
Rather, he wrote, "al Qaeda is a simple part of the efforts of the jihadi Ummah (nation), so do not think of them to be more than they are. We all should know our abilities and to try to cooperate in goodness, piety and jihad in the Cause of Allah; everyone in his place and with whatever they can and what is suitable to them."


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