Washington: Following the killing of Atiyah
abd al-Rahman, Al-Qaeda`s second-in-command, it would be difficult for its new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to consolidate his control over the terror outfit, an official has said.
Zawahiri had taken over as the Al-Qaeda leader after
Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in a special operation
in Abbottabad area of Pakistan on May 2.
Atiyah, a Libyan national, was killed by a US drone
strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan on August 22.
"Zawahiri needed Atiyah`s experience and connections to
help manage al Qaeda. Now it will be even harder for him to
consolidate control," an US official told PTI on condition of
"There`s no question this is a major blow to al Qaeda.
Atiyah was at the top of al Qaeda`s trusted core. He ran daily
operations for the group since Shaykh Sa`id al-Masri was
killed last year, and has been Zawahiri`s second-in-command
since Bin Laden`s death in May," said the official.
Atiyah was the one affiliates knew and trusted, and he
spoke on behalf of both Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri, the
The State Department had offered up to USD 1 million for
information about him.
"He planned the details of al Qaeda operations and its
propaganda. His combination of background, experience, and
abilities are unique in al Qaeda without question, they will
not be easily replaced," said the official, who requested
US counter-terrorism officials believe that Atiyah`s death is a tremendous loss for Al-Qaeda as Zawahiri was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organisation,
especially since Osama`s death.
Counter-terrorism officials point out that it is the
treasure trove of materials obtained from the Abbottabad
compound of Osama bin Laden which led to the killing of
These documents showed clearly that Atiyah was deeply
involved in directing Al-Qaeda`s operations even before the
"He had multiple responsibilities in the organization and will be very difficult to replace", the official added.
Brian Fishman, a Counterterrorism Research Fellow at the
New America Foundation, in a blog post for the Foreign Policy
said that Atiyah`s death, if confirmed, will hasten the demise
of al-Qaeda as a functional covert network.
"Although one must assume Atiyah prepared for his death,
his contacts must nevertheless now wonder what US intelligence
personnel knew his activities and communications that might
now put them at risk," he said.
Fishman said Atiyah`s central role in the al-Qaeda
network has been clear since the Combating Terrorism Center at
West Point in 2006 released a declassified letter from Atiyah
to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leader Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi.
"That letter indicated not only that Atiyah had been an
influential player in jihadi circles for years, but that he
had a freedom of movement from Pakistan into Iran that was, if
not unique, then very rare," he said.
"Such freedom of movement was important not just for
communications with Zarqawi and the al-Qaeda faction in Iraq,
but for communications from al-Qaeda members held under house
arrest in Iran, most importantly Sayf al-Adel, who has
continued to play a key strategic role for al-Qaeda despite
not having absolute freedom," Fishman said.