Pakistan has not yet confirmed the weekend death of Al-Qaeda’s former number two man, despite an announcement by the U.S. officials to the contrary.
Over the weekend, Washington claimed that a military drone strike in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border. had killed Atiyah abd al-Rahman, a Libyan national, who was deputy chief of al Qaeda. American officials said it was a major victory in its war against the terrorist organization.
Reportedly, al-Rahman had taken over for Ayman al-Zawahri, when the latter rose to the top spot following the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos in May.
The killing of al-Rahman took place on August 22, the U.S. government stated.
However, Pakistani officials say they have no confirmation of the death.
One senior Islamabad official told Reuters: We made checks but we have no confirmation from any source as yet about this death.”
Moreover, Pakistani government figures are not convinced that al-Rahman, whether he is dead or alive, was really such a senior figure in al-Qaeda.
We don't know even whether he was number two or not, the official told Reuters.
The situation seems to reflect the continuing lack of communication between Washington and Islamabad. The U.S. has become openly distrustful of the Pakistani military and intelligence system after bin Laden was found living peacefully in a compound near Islamabad.
Washington, under the Obama administration, has carried out numerous unmanned military drone strikes upon the lawless border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan where many terrorists -- including members of al-Qaeda and Taliban, among others -- are believed to be in hiding.
However, drone strikes are extremely controversial in Pakistan since they have inadvertently killed many civilians. U.S. officials typically do not even publicly discuss the use of these unmanned robot attack craft.
In any case, if the killing of al-Rahman is indeed a fact, it might make it easier to locate and kill Zawahri – who is also believed to be in Pakistan,
Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on Pakistani tribal and militant affairs, told Reuters: Osama bin Laden has been found here. Several senior al Qaeda leaders have been captured from here and if Atiyah abd al-Rahman's presence and death are also confirmed, then it will prove that they all are here.”