An image of Atiyah Abd al Rahman, from his latest propaganda tape. Photo from the SITE Intelligence Group.
The emir of al Qaeda has announced the death of Atiyah Abd al Rahman, a top leader who was targeted by the US in a drone strike in August.
Ayman al Zawahiri released a videotape today on jihadist web forums announcing Atiyah’s death, as well as that of his son, ‘Issam. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Atiyah, whose real name is Jamal Ibrahim Ashtiwi al Misrati, was also known as Atiyah Allah. He was a senior leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group before rising to the top ranks of al Qaeda’s leadership. Atiyah has been described as al Qaeda’s “operations chief” and second in command in most press reports, and his role in plotting terrorist attacks has been repeatedly noted. But according to one senior US intelligence official contacted by The Long War Journal, Atiyah was al Qaeda’s “general manager” and also served as Osama bin Laden’s “chief of staff” before the al Qaeda emir was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May [see LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda leader reportedly killed, for more information on Atiyah and his role in al Qaeda’s top leadership echelon].
Atiyah was killed in the Aug. 22 strike in Norak in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. Mir Ali is a known haven for a multitude of jihadist groups, including al Qaeda. A senior local al Qaeda leader known as Abu Kasha al Iraqi operates in Mir Ali, and is closely tied to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Taliban, and a host of other allied terror groups.
At the time of his death, Aytiah was reported to have been spotted in Mir Ali along with Taliban and Uzbek supporters. He was thought to have been making “a goodwill tour of North Waziristan,” The News speculated.
Atiyah’s death was masked by al Qaeda for more than three months. At the end of August, As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda outlet, released a Ramadan tape that included statements made by Atiyah. The tape was released eight days after the strike, but appears to had been produced before he was killed. An article written by Atiyah was also included in the September edition of “Vanguards of Khorasan,” an al Qaeda magazine.
Atiyah is the latest senior al Qaeda leader killed in US Predator strikes in Pakistan this year. Other terrorist leaders killed in Pakistan in 2011 include:
- Abu Miqdad al Masri, a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, and Abd al Rahman al Yemeni, a senior operative, were killed in strikes in North Waziristan on Oct. 13 and 14.
- Ahmed Omar Abdul Rahman, a senior al Qaeda operative with ties to the Haqqani Network, was one of three Egyptians killed on Oct. 14 in North Waziristan. Rahman was a son of the ‘Blind Sheikh,’ the spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group who is in prison in the US for his involvement in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
- Jan Baz Zadran, described by US intelligence as the Haqqani Network’s third in command, was killed on Oct. 13 in North Waziristan.
For a list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan, see LWJ Special Report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2011.