The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Al-Qaeda no. 2 reported killed in drone strike

The world’s most dangerous job U.S. officials first told the AP Saturday that a U.S. drone strike August 22 had killed al-Qaeda no. 2 Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a longtime al-Qaeda figure, operational planner, and close confidant of Osama bin Laden (AP, Post, NYT, ABC, Guardian, LAT, WSJ, Reuters, ET, FT, NPR, Tel). Rahman, who was ...

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s most dangerous job

U.S. officials first told the AP Saturday that a U.S. drone strike August 22 had killed al-Qaeda no. 2 Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a longtime al-Qaeda figure, operational planner, and close confidant of Osama bin Laden (AP, Post, NYT, ABC, Guardian, LAT, WSJ, Reuters, ET, FT, NPR, Tel). Rahman, who was reportedly killed in the North Waziristan village of Machi Khel, had emerged in recent years as a key operational planner for al-Qaeda, and was part of a younger generation of leadership in the organization. He was also considered a vital liaison with al-Qaeda affiliates, and documents recovered from bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad revealed that Rahman was one of the few al-Qaeda figures in regular contact with bin Laden (Post).

Though relatively little is known about Rahman, he is believed to have been born in the Libyan city of Misrata, and joined al-Qaeda in the early 1990s after fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan as well as alongside Islamist rebels in Algeria (CNN). He was the al-Qaeda figure in charge of handling American recruit Bryant Neal Vinas, and also played a role in the operation that killed seven CIA operatives at their base near the Afghan city of Khost in 2009, as well as suspected plots that put European countries on high alert last year (DW, Reuters). An official said that Rahman’s death, "is a major blow to al Qaeda. Atiyah was at the top of al-Qaeda’s trusted core" (AP, CNN, Guardian, NYT). However, Pakistani officials expressed skepticism over reports of Rahman’s death to the Tribune, saying they needed "hard evidence" (ET).

And the Journal reports on the continued anger drone strikes cause in Pakistan (WSJ).

Dramatic departure

In a nearly three-and-a-half hour television appearance on Sunday, Sindh province home minister Zulfiqar Mirza resigned from his post, before lashing out at Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik, whom he said was a "liar" involved with killers behind a wave of violence in Karachi, as well as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which he said was involved in an American plot to break up Pakistan (ET, AP, The News, DT). The MQM and Malik denied the allegations, as violence continued to ravage the city (Dawn, ET, DT, Dawn, ET, Dawn, AP, McClatchy, ET, Reuters, Dawn, Guardian, ET). A parliamentary committee has been formed to address the violence, as Pakistan’s Supreme Court again took up its investigation into the unrest Monday (Dawn, Dawn, ET, Dawn, ET). Dawn breaks down the ethnic fault lines in Karachi, while also reporting that some of the city’s Pashtuns are fleeing as a result of the persistent instability (Dawn, Dawn).

Approximately 300 Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters crossed over from Afghanistan and attacked a series of paramilitary and police posts in the Chitral district on Saturday, killing at least 36 Pakistani forces (The News, Reuters, Tel, CNN, ET, AJE, AP, BBC). Pakistan’s government filed a protest over the incident with Afghanistan’s ambassador to the country Saturday, and said that it may redeploy forces from the country’s tribal areas to the border with Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces (Dawn, ET, Dawn, ET). Also this weekend, at least three people were killed in an attack on a train in Baluchistan, while American Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) during a visit to Islamabad called on Pakistan to reduce the flow of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer commonly used to make explosives, to Afghanistan (ET, AFP, AFP).

Finally this weekend, Rawalpindi’s anti-terrorism court ordered the assets in Pakistan of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf confiscated, due to the latter’s failure to respond to the court’s summons in the investigation into the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (NYT, ET, Dawn, Tel, AP, AJE). Pakistani police continue to search for Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the slain governor of Punjab province (Dawn, ET, ET, DT, DT, DT, ET). A U.S. teen originally from Pakistan is reportedly being held in secret custody in the United States in relation to a plot involving American Colleen LaRose, more commonly known by her Internet handle, "JihadJane" (AP, Post). And an increase in kidnappings has prompted Pakistani police to ask all foreigners in the country to register their presence with local police stations (ET).

Attacks increase

The Times this weekend reported on the rise in suicide bombings in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramadan, as four people were killed in a suicide car bombing outside of a bank where security forces were collecting their pay in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, another four (including three children) were killed in a suicide attack against a police checkpoint in Kandahar, and a team of Taliban attackers — including suicide bombers — struck a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) base in the Zabul provincial capital of Qalat (NYT, CNN, BBC, AFP, AFP). On Saturday, Afghan police arrested a 16-year-old they said was planning a suicide bombing against a mosque in the northeastern province of Badakhshan (CNN). And an Afghan health worker and his driver were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern province of Takhar on Sunday (AP).

The AP on Monday reported that Afghan officials, angry that the United States was holding secret meetings with the Taliban, intentionally leaked information about the talks in order to break them up (AP). The AP also reports that Taliban interlocutor Tayyeb Agha is currently hiding in Germany out of concern for reprisals should he return to Pakistan.

Three stories round out the news: Alyssa Rubin discusses the dearth of treatment options for Afghanistan’s increasing population of drug addicts (NYT). The Sunday Times gives new detail on how the tough defenses of the British Council headquarters in Kabul helped Taliban attackers hold out against Afghan and Western forces trying to retake the building (Times). And the police chief for the province of Parwan told the AFP Monday that two German tourists who were reported missing earlier this month were kidnapped by insurgents (AFP).

Pakistani "Millionaire"

TIME reports on the success of Geo TV’s "Alif Laam Meem," a version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" that quizzes participants on their knowledge of Islam (TIME). Winners can take home an apartment, tens of thousands of dollars, and a pilgrimmage trip for two to Mecca.

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Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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