Al Qaeda's second-in-command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman has been killed in a US drone attack in in the mountains of Pakistan's Waziristan area, American officials have said, further damaging the terror group that appears weakened since the death of Osama bin Laden in May.
"It's been confirmed that al Qaeda's number two, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, was killed earlier this week in Waziristan, Pakistan," a senior US Administration official said on Saturday.
Rahman, a Libyan who in the last year had taken over as al Qaeda's top operational planner, was in frequent contact with bin Laden in the months before he was killed on May 2 by a Navy Seals team, intelligence officials have said.
"Rahman's death is a tremendous loss for al Qaeda because Ayman al-Zawahiri (al Qaeda's chief) was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organisation, especially since bin Laden's death," the official said.
He said the trove of materials from bin Laden's compound showed clearly that Rahman was deeply involved in directing al Qaeda's operations even before the raid.
The official said Rahman played multiple roles within the organisation and will be very difficult to be replaced.
American officials described Rahman's death as very significant as compared with other al Qaeda leaders, because he was one of a new generation of leaders that the network hoped would assume greater control after bin Laden's death.
After bin Laden was killed, Rahman became al Qaeda's No. 2 leader under Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded bin Laden.
"Rahman was at the top of al Qaeda's trusted core," an American official was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
"His combination of background, experience and abilities are unique in al Qaeda — without question, they will not be easily replaced."