US believes al-Qa'ida is on the verge of defeat after deputy leader's death

American and Pakistani officials said al-Qa'ida's second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another blow to a terrorist group that the US believes to be on the verge of defeat.

Since Navy Seals stormed Osama bin Laden's compound and killed him in May, the Obama administration has been unusually frank in its assessment that al-Qa'ida is on the ropes, its leadership in disarray. The new US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that al-Qa'ida's defeat was within reach if the US could mount a string of successful attacks. "Now is the moment, following what happened with Bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them," Mr Panetta said. "Because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qa'ida as a major threat."

A Libyan national, Rahman never had the worldwide recognition of Bin Laden or Bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. But Rahman was regarded as an instrumental figure in the organisation, trusted by Bin Laden to oversee al-Qa'ida's daily operations.

When the Seals raided Bin Laden's compound, they found evidence of Rahman's deep involvement in running al-Qa'ida.

Senior al-Qa'ida figures have been killed before, only to be replaced. But the Obama administration's tenor reflects a cautious optimism that victory in the decade-long fight against al-Qa'ida could be at hand.

"It does hold the prospect of a strategic defeat, if you will, a strategic dismantling, of al-Qa'ida," David Petraeus, the incoming CIA director, said in July.

Since Bin Laden's death, counter-terrorism officials have hoped to capitalise on al-Qa'ida's unsettled leadership. The more uncertain the structure, the harder it is for al-Qa'ida to operate covertly and plan attacks.

Zawahiri is running the group but is considered a divisive figure who lacks the founder's charisma and ability to galvanise al-Qa'ida's disparate franchises.

A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to summarise the government's intelligence on Rahman, said Rahman's death will make it harder for Zawahiri to oversee what is considered an increasingly weakened organisation.

"Zawahiri needed Atiyah's experience and connections to help manage al-Qa'ida," the official said.

Rahman was killed on 22 August in the lawless Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, according to a senior administration official who also insisted on anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.

A Pakistani intelligence official confirmed the American account. The American official would not say how Rahman was killed.

The Pakistani official did not say how the country's main intelligence agency, the ISI, knew that Rahman was dead. Intelligence officials had said at the time that four people were killed in the attack.

A CIA drone strike was reported that day in Waziristan. The unmanned aircraft is Washington's weapon of choice for killing terrorists in the mountainous, hard-to-reach area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Rahman has been thought to be dead before. Last year, there were reports that he had been killed in a drone strike, but neither US officials nor al-Qa'ida confirmed them. AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee