US drone strike kills key al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan - officials
Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, an alleged key al-Qaeda operative of Libyan origin, has been killed in a suspected US drone strike in Pakistan's lawless tribal region, security officials said Saturday, dpa reported.
The US had placed a 1-million-dollar bounty on al-Rahman, who was killed Thursday when a CIA-operated unmanned aircraft fired two missiles on a vehicle in Khushali Jungle area of North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan. A total of four people died in the strike.
"We have received reports that al-Qaeda leader Atiya Abd al-Rahman has been killed in the October 7 drone attack. Together with him another low-ranking al-Qaeda operative Khalid Mohammad Abbas al- Harabi also died," said a local intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to the German Press Agency dpa.
A second intelligence official confirmed the death of al-Rahman, but he was not sure about the identity of the other three people killed in the attack.
Al-Rahman was appointed by al-Qaeda top leader Osama bin Laden as his emissary in Iran to recruit people and facilitate links with other Islamic groups to work as partners in terror.
He is also described as a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Ansar al-Sunna. Atiyah has allegedly been in regular contact with senior ranking al-Qaeda leaders.
He joined Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan as a teenager in the 1980s. Since then, he has gained considerable stature in al-Qaeda as an explosives expert and as an Islamic scholar.
Al-Rahman became acquainted with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the western city of Herat in the late 1990s. He retreated with Osama bin Laden to the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in the fall of 2001, according to the US State Department.
The US has intensified its campaign of drone attacks against al- Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan's tribal region from where they conduct cross-border raids on NATO-led international forces and allegedly plan terrorist strikes in Western countries.
Another key al-Qaeda member, Fahd Mohammad Ahmed al-Quso, who had a bounty of five million dollars on his head for alleged involvement in the October 12, 2000 bombing of USS Cole in Aden which killed 17 American sailors, was killed on September 8 this year in a drone attack in North Waziristan.