Al-Qa'ida's second in command 'is killed in Pakistan'

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A former chief lieutenant of Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan in a blow to al-Qa'ida that the United States claims will severely weaken the terrorist network's leadership and future operations.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman was promoted to the group's second in command following Bin Laden's death earlier this year. It was claimed yesterday that Rahman had been killed on Monday. The US state department had offered a possible $1m reward for his capture. A US defence intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, yesterday said Rahman had died in the Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan. "Atiyah's death is a tremendous loss for al-Qa'ida," the official said. "He had multiple responsibilities in the organisation and will be very difficult to replace."

The official would not discuss how Rahman was killed but his death came on the same day as a US drone attack on the area. There were strong hints last night that the intelligence behind the raid had at least in part come from information uncovered after Bin Laden's death at his secret compound in Pakistan in May. US officials had already suggested they had found evidence of Rahman's role as a key operational leader in the aftermath. Drone attacks – raids from unmanned aircraft on mountainous regions on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border – have become a familiar tactic in targeting al-Qa'ida suspects.

Rahman, a Libyan believed to be in his 40s, was said to have previously worked as Bin Laden's "emissary to Iran", having first met the al-Qa'ida leader as a teenager in Afghanistan in the 1980s, during the conflict with the Soviet Union. He later attended training camps and was classed as an "explosives expert" on intelligence files. Only Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's former deputy, is reported to have assumed a more senior role in the al-Qa'ida ranks.