Haemorrhaging in al-Qaeda's ranks continues following death of Abdel Rahman

Abdel Rahman was one of bin Laden's closest associates during the last few years. [Reuters]

Abdel Rahman was one of bin Laden's closest associates during the last few years. [Reuters]

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The death of al-Qaeda's second in command, Atiya Abdel Rahman, following a drone strike in Waziristan, Pakistan on August 22nd, highlights once again the haemorrhaging of field commanders that the organisation has suffered for years.

The death of Abdel Rahman, a Libyan national, is also a clear setback for Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's new leader, who is trying to rebuild the organisation after the death of its founder Osama bin Laden on May 2nd.

Abdel Rahman was one of bin Laden's closest associates during the last few years. He was also one of the most important conduits for transmitting bin Laden's messages to al-Qaeda affiliates, according to a CNN report. He was reportedly involved in plots to launch new al-Qaeda attacks, including strikes planned for the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, according to the Washington Post.

This shows the importance of the Libyan in the current al-Qaeda leadership hierarchy. According to media reports, Abdel Rahman was al-Qaeda's second highest leader after al-Zawahiri. He attained the position after al-Zawahiri assumed the leadership post this summer, replacing Sheikh Saeed al-Masri, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Khorasan (including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and some parts of Iran), who was also killed in a drone strike in Waziristan.

Abdel Rahman widely connected to al-Qaeda branches

Abdel Rahman, believed to have been in his forties, was born in Misrata, east of Tripoli. He was linked through a wide network of contacts to al-Qaeda's branches worldwide.

He had a relationship with the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen. According to documents seized from bin Laden's home in Abbottabad following his death, Abdel Rahman relayed a message to bin Laden from the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula branch requesting the appointment of Anwar al-Awlaki as emir of the Yemeni affiliate. According to a New York Times report, bin Laden rejected the idea, instead insisting on maintaining the leadership of the Gulf branch unchanged.

The Libyan had previously served as a liaison with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq. He reportedly relayed a message to al-Zarqawi in the name of "the leadership of al-Qaeda in Waziristan", asking him to reduce the level of violence of his operations in Iraq, which ultimately led to al-Qaeda losing the support of large segments of the Iraqi populace, including the factions engaged in "resistance" against foreign troops.

It is clear from the vast communications network that Abdel Rahman established with the branches of al-Qaeda that he was no ordinary figure in the organisation's hierarchy. His absence will be a huge loss for al-Zawahiri who is believed to be trying to rebuild the organisation and possibly carry out attacks bearing his mark. Judging by his recent statements, al-Zawahiri is attempting to assert his authority over al-Qaeda by launching new attacks that would not only avenge bin Laden's death but also continue actions al-Qaeda leaders consider "jihad work".

Many jihadists have in recent years questioned the validity of al-Qaeda's claims that its operations represented a form of jihad, particularly since they cause the death of civilians in indiscriminate attacks and bombings in public places.

Haemorrhaging in al-Qaeda's ranks

It is not known with certainty whether the absence of the Abdel Rahman would hamper operations al-Qaeda may be planning. Media reports pointed towards his involvement in past plots during the period that preceded the killing of its leader, bin Laden.

Regardless of whether Abdel Rahman was indeed involved in the planning of new operations, the tangible impact of his absence speaks to al-Qaeda's loss of its core leaders who had accumulated extensive experience by virtue of their lengthy tenure within its framework since its inception in the late 1980s. According to media reports, Abdel Rahman joined al-Qaeda at an early stage [of its existence], upon moving to Afghanistan in the late eighties.

Bin Laden himself is reportedly to have explicitly acknowledged before his death what many know today, that al-Qaeda is losing its leaders so rapidly that it doesn't have adequate time to train new qualified replacements.

In the beginning, al-Qaeda may have been able to appoint new leaders to replace those individuals killed or arrested. But the rapid pace of the demise of new leaders - especially by drone strikes in Waziristan - has prevented the organisation from appointing replacements in recent years. According to media reports, bin Laden admitted that he no longer knew who the field commanders were because the vast majority of those commanders he knew on a personal basis were either in the afterlife or in prison.

Abdel Rahman was one of al-Qaeda's veteran members who advanced through field work to become a prominent leader. He was a bridge between the first generation of al-Qaeda's founders and new members who joined the organisation in the past few years.

In addition to being a link between the founding generation and the new generation, Abdel Rahman played a significant role in the effort to "improve" al-Qaeda's image among Muslims. He wrote a doctrinal study that prohibited bombings in mosques. His study was published following a series of bomb blasts targeting mosques in several countries that were conducted by suspected members of the Taliban branch in Afghanistan or Pakistan and members of the al-Qaeda branch in Iraq. However, it does not appear that his study achieved the desired effect, judging by the continued bombings of mosques by extremists claiming they sought to kill their enemies.

Abdel Rahman's death signals a crushing blow to al-Zawahiri's efforts to rebuild al-Qaeda even before they are put into practice. With his elimination, al-Zawahiri appears to have a lost a figure who was pivotal to his plans to re-launch al-Qaeda with a new approach that has not yet crystallized. The plan would likely take into account that al-Qaeda has been almost entirely out of touch with the pulse of the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya while threatening other regimes with a similar fate.

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    الحربي من العراق

    2011-10-5

    All praise be to God. O God! Make all those who love Sheikh Osama bin Laden his companions in the hereafter. Make them also the companions of al-Zawahiri, Zarqawi, and all the Egyptians and the Palestinians, especially Hamas and its leader Ismail Haniyeh, as well as his followers, in addition to his Jordanian followers. Amen, O Lord, as you are All-Hearing.

  • ابو اسامة

    2011-9-29

    Who said that he was killed??! His group posted a video of him on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. They said about him, “May God protect him,” so how come you are certain that he was killed??!

  • كريمه كريمه

    2011-9-25

    Views which say that the killing of one of the commanders is a shock and a blow to the rest of the group certainly are true, and due to this, we have seen large declines in the work of the groups of the al-Qaeda organization, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq. What they are trying to do is to be concentrated in the State of Yemen, as it is now the state of the non-stable conditions. It is likely that they will be easily hunted by these groups of the al-Qaeda organization, first because they are simple and poor people and they are suffering from unemployment. That is the most important and dangerous aspect that the groups of the al-Qaeda organization are working on in order to exploit as many of the young people as possible, through luring them with money to be recruited and involved with them. This is in addition to also claiming that what they are doing is in the name of the Islamic religion and that it is an act of jihad that has to be done without any opposition or debate. That is why they are always in a state of renewal of their cells, especially in countries which witness conditions that are disturbing, unsafe, free of stability, and free of the presence of security forces, the army and the police.

  • مجدي

    2011-9-20

    When Atiyah Abdul Rahman was killed, al-Qaeda suffered much, because he was the second man after Osama bin Laden. He was planning everything, and Ayman al-Zawahiri used to consult him before doing anything, because he was stronger than they were; God is the most merciful and the strongest. The death of this criminal represented good and pleasant news for all the Arab and European countries, because he was carrying out dirty and cowardly operations. I would like to assure them that al-Qaeda is weakened and they are incapable of carrying out greater operations. On the contrary, we should be pleased with this. Osama bin Laden himself used to rely on Atiyah in all the dirty operations that they used to plan. Now they are in places known only to God, because the Muslims asked God to take revenge on them. Because of the dirty operations that they carried out, they don’t deserve death, but they should be tortured because they committed many evil acts. There are many wives who have become widows and many children have been orphaned. Nations are in miserable conditions. We can see catastrophes and torture everywhere. May God protect us against their evil acts and spread good throughout the Islamic nations. God will bring justice, because he is just and he will take revenge on those who caused innocent people to suffer from terrorism and terrorists and their dirty operations. It is thanks to God that the Arab nations have managed to get rid of the greatest criminal leaders who are wanted by the International Court. God’s justice is greater than all, and God will bring justice on Earth. He is the most merciful and He has all the good. I would like to say to Ayman al-Zawahiri, you are a loser and incapable of doing the slightest thing. Therefore, you have to surrender to rid the world of your evil and the ones working with you. O God, eradicate them and make them get the harshest punishments, in order to know that God is just. May God spread all good in the Arab world and defeat al-Qaeda wherever they go.

  • سيد الخواتم

    2011-9-20

    Today, al-Qaeda has been split forever, after the killing of the second man after Osama bin Laden. He was the mastermind and planner of many criminal operations that were carried out in many Arab and European countries. His death represents a strong blow to al-Qaeda. Now, they are worried about what they will do because the cowardly Ayman al-Zawahiri was fully relying on him in order to carry out their operations, killing, booby-trapping and claiming the lives of many innocent people. May God help us get rid of them one after the other. God, you are the Lord of the Worlds.

  • موفق الربيعي

    2011-9-20

    It is true that the murdered Atiyah Abdul Rahman was the right hand of the current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. He used to rely on him strongly in all his operations. Now, he has been killed, after the U.S. forces bombed him and his groups. They rid us of him and the operations that were carried out against the Arab and European nations. It goes without saying that he is the main mastermind behind all the operations carried out by al-Qaeda. You should know, my brothers, that Ayman al-Zawahiri is one of the most cowardly persons, and he can’t make any decision without consulting Abdul Rahman. He is really the second man, after the previous leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was killed. Now, he is dead, because it was his destiny one day. Thank God, because he helped us get rid of him forever. We hope that the same thing will happen to Ayman al-Zawahiri one day, in order to eradicate and get rid of al-Qaeda forever. They will be totally destroyed after they collapse, one after the other. Almighty God is the supporter of justice and He is the greatest.

  • تنسيم الماريدي

    2011-9-20

    I would like to assure you that al-Qaeda is finished after the death of this man, because he used to be the main mastermind and planner. I am sure that the day of al-Qaeda will come soon because after the death of Osama bin Laden, the cowardly terrorists’ lives have come to an end. He used to kill and torture in an unbelievable way. Thank God who helped those who killed and got rid of him forever. The killing of Atiyah Abdul Rahman is a painful blow for Al-Qaeda. This is a clear message for Ayman Al-Zawahiri, which means that those who got rid of Osama bin Laden and Atiyah Abdul Rahman are capable of killing this cowardly member. He won’t benefit from all the dirty operations he is carrying out against the Arab and Islamic nations. He has to remember that his day will come soon, because he is included on the wanted list. Those whom you were relying on are gone, and today you are alone. God knows about the criminal operations that you are carrying out. Justice will come to light and evil will disappear like Atiyah. No one will help you, whatever you do, and terrorism and terrorists will be eradicated soon. We hope that we will get rid of them, one after the other, with the help of Almighty God. Whatever terrorist do, they will be eradicated soon.

  • ناصر

    2011-9-19

    May God give victory to his soldiers in al-Qaeda and the Taliban! Your brother Nassir al-Masri.

  • عبد الحكيم

    2011-9-18

    There are many different opinions regarding the killing of the so-called Abdul Rahman Atiyah after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, who belonged to the al-Qaeda terrorist groups. What happened is a strong blow and a shock to al-Qaeda, because they managed to reach the leaders of this organization. Today, they are weaker than before, and it has become easier for the security forces and the army to reach them. The control of the al-Qaeda organization groups is no longer as strong as it was before. In addition, many citizens managed to unveil the truth about these members, because of the numerous lies, deception and the disguise under the cover of Islam. They were claiming their Jihadi operations all the time, but the truth is that they were attacking the citizens among Muslims, Christians and many other sects and religions. They also worked on sowing dissension and sectarianism among people, in order to create an atmosphere of problems, killing, hatred and disputes between people. The killing of one of al-Qaeda’s members represents a great shock for the rest of the groups, because the one who was killed is one of the leaders who has a significant role in planning and guiding all the operations carried out by the al-Qaeda groups and members.

  • ميسره صالح

    2011-9-15

    I would like to ensure that al-Qaeda is finished after killing that man, because he was the first and main planner. I am sure that al-Qaeda will be defeated soon. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, the life of the cowardly terrorists is ended. He focused on sabotage and killing in an unbelievable way. I would like to thank God, who helped those who killed him in order to get rid of him forever. The killing of Atiyah Abd al-Rahman is a major blow to the al-Qaeda organization. This is a clear message to Ayman Al-Zawahiri that those who got rid of Osama Bin Laden and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman are capable of killing you. The dirty operations that you are carrying out against the Islamic and Arab nation will bring you no benefits. You should remember that your end will come soon, and you are on the most wanted list. Those that you were relying on are gone, and today you are alone and you can’t do anything. God knows your criminal operations and justice will prevail. Atiyah is also gone and no one will help you. Terrorism and terrorists will be done away with soon, and we will get rid of the criminal members one after the other, God willing. Whatever terrorists do, their end will be soon.

  • salam12

    2011-9-14

    Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was the right hand of the current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been killed. In fact, al-Zawahiri relied on him in all his operations. However, he was killed after the American forces launched a strike on his group in order to get rid of his evil, especially since he caused the suffering of all the Arab and European people in all parts of the Earth. There is no doubt that he was the mastermind of all the operations of al-Qaeda. In fact, you must know that Ayman al-Zawahiri is among the most cowardly persons. Thus, he could not carry out any operation without consulting Abd al-Rahman, who was the second man after the death of Osama bin Laden. That’s why it was important to kill him one day. Thanks God that we have gotten rid of him forever. And we hope that Ayman al-Zawahiri will also be killed, God willing. This is in order to tear out al-Qaeda at its roots. Of course, the death of Atiyah Abd al-Rahman has been a painful blow to the terrorist organization of al-Qaeda. In fact, these terrorists have started to collapse gradually, especially since God Almighty is always on the side of the Right.

  • jasaar

    2011-9-14

    The cowardly terrorists have always caused Iraqis fear. In fact, they have tried to beat the civilians everywhere. They have also carried out terrorist operations of booby-trapping, killing and bombing everywhere. They have exploited every opportunity to carry out their dirty operations, and they have used all the methods in order to carry out their booby-trapping operations and to plant the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Thus, the Iraqi people, the military and the security forces must cooperate in order to save Iraq from these cowardly groups that don’t want the wellbeing of the country. In fact, the Iraqi forces in all the provinces must work on thwarting all the terrorists’ attacks. These forces have proven their ability when they thwarted five attacks in the days of Eid al-Fitr. Thus, the security forces succeeded in saving a large number of citizens in the days of Eid al-Fitr. And as I have said, the terrorists tried to seize any opportunity to carry out their cowardly and dirty operations. And I would like to say to the Iraqis that al-Qaeda has become weak after the death of the accursed Osama bin Laden. This is in addition to the death of Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was Ayman al-Zawahiri’s right hand. Thus, al-Qaeda has become shaky and it has become unable to carry out more criminal operations. That’s why we want to seize the opportunity to get rid of all those who don’t want the wellbeing of Iraq and Iraqis. Thus, we ask the security forces to track down all those who have carried out these operations. This is so as to arrest them and thwart their criminal operations. And I ask the Iraqi Ministry of Interior to intensify the security forces’ training in order to track down terrorism and terrorists. In fact, the heroic security forces have arrested a large number of the cowardly terrorists of al-Qaeda. Thus, most of these terrorists are in prisons. Also, the security forces have discovered the whereabouts of terrorists and found their munitions and their small and heavy arms. Therefore, we would like to thank them for their heroic acts. In fact, they must be honored, given their great efforts in order to restore the security and safety of the new Iraq.

  • حامد

    2011-9-6

    We don’t know how many times it will be announced in the near future by the Americans and their Pakistani friends.

  • عمار

    2011-9-6

    I love Osama.

  • نسيم درويش

    2011-9-2

    Bin Laden, according to the Shariah: All thanks to God, the Lord of the Worlds. No attack except on the oppressors. Peace and Blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, the Seal of Messengers. Peace and Blessings be upon his family, companions and followers. Many wonder about Osama Bin Laden, his method, his way and his works in the Muslim nations. Our words here will be based on proof and logic. It will be analyzed according to the people of religion and honest scholars, not according to feelings and excitement like many of the youth, may God guide them! Our words are about a method and deeds, not about a person, because he is now dead and he is facing God, The Just. We believe that Osama Bin Laden and his followers have gone astray from the road of reformation. He violated the rules of Sharia of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice. They are great rules set down by the Qur’anic texts and the Prophetic teachings in the Sunnah. It is not based on people’s desires, wants, excitement and impulse. Changing the vices through arms, terrorism and murder is not right. The teachings of Islam do not permit Muslims or non-Muslims with whom we have a covenant or a treaty to be targeted. Bin Laden violated the majority of scholars in Jihad and its measures. He insulted scholars and belittled their opinions. He accused them of treachery and adulation of rulers. He called people to disobey all the Muslim rulers, after he had designated them, their ministers and anyone working with them as infidels. He shed the blood of Muslims and the non-Muslims citizens who live in the Muslim countries under the protection and covenant of the official authorities. In his attacks and the explosions carried out by him and his followers, he attacked both the Muslims living in the place of the bombing, and the infidels. He killed them all and shed their blood. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever attacks my Ummah, indiscriminately killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not even those who are staunch in faith, and not fulfilling his promise made with those who have been given a pledge of a security--he has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.” Narrated by Imam Muslim in his Sahih 4/1477. Those who consider people infidels and terrorize people with explosions are torturing Muslims and spreading insecurity. They led the infidels to harass the Muslim countries through these actions. They stained the image of Islam for the non-Muslims. They blocked the call to believing in God through wisdom.

  • NADER

    2011-8-31

    The Revolution of the 25th of January is the revolution of the great people.

  • عماد المصري

    2011-8-31

    There are many others to replace him, but Al-Qaeda is right because of what is happening to Islam.

  • عماد المصري

    2011-8-30

    There are many others to replace him.