* Rahman was multi-skilled al Qaeda organiser and thinker
* Libyan's death leaves al Qaeda top ranks very depleted
* Rahman cautiously welcomed Arab Spring, drove Qaeda growth
By William Maclean
LONDON, Aug 27 The killing of al Qaeda's number
two leader deprives the group of a multi-talented manager who
helped it spawn offshoots around the world and survive a U.S.
counter-terrorism campaign in Pakistan, security analysts say.
U.S. officials said on Saturday that Atiyah abd al-Rahman, a
Libyan, was killed earlier this week in Pakistan. One official
said he was killed in a strike by an unmanned drone on Aug.
The killing is likely to be particularly highly prized by
Washington as U.S. strategists would have been concerned about
Rahman's potential influence in Libya's turmoil following the
overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, analysts say.
Rahman, in his 40s and from the coastal Libyan town of
Misrata, built a reputation in al Qaeda as a thinker, organiser
and trusted emissary of the Pakistan-based central leadership to
In particular he played a key role in managing ties between
the core leadership and al Qaeda in Iraq and helped negotiate
the formation in 2007 of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
with a group of Algerian Islamist guerrillas.
He was also one of the first al Qaeda leaders to provide a
response to the uprisings in the Arab world, urging the group's
supporters to cooperate with the revolts even if the rebellions
were not Islamist-inspired.
"It's immensely important that he's been killed," said Anna
Murison, who monitors Islamist violence for Exclusive Analysis,
a London-based risk consultancy.
She said he was widely trusted throughout the organisation
and Islamists from very varied backgrounds listened to him.
QAEDA LOOKS "FINISHED"
"Al Qaeda as an idea will live on, but al Qaeda core as an
organisation looks pretty much finished as there are so few
people who can now move up into those senior ranks," she said.
She said he was one of only four people in al Qaeda's
leadership with a global profile in the small but passionate
transnational community of violent Islamist militants.
She rates these as al Qaeda's current leader Ayman
al-Zawahri, Egyptian plotter Saif al-Adl, and the other Libyan
in al Qaeda's central leadership, the theologian Abu Yahya
Rahman rose to the number two spot when al-Zawahri took the
reins of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed in May in a
U.S. raid in Pakistan.
Noman Benotman, a former Libyan Islamist and now an analyst
at Britain's Quilliam think tank, said his death was a heavy
blow to al Qaeda as he was its main organiser and manager.
"This was the one man al Qaeda could not afford to lose,"
Benotman said. "He was the CEO of al Qaeda who was at the heart
of the management process of al Qaeda worldwide.
Benotman said that in the last two years he "more or less
single-handedly" kept al Qaeda together.
"He was a strong decision maker, an excellent debater and a
skilled peacemaker between various Islamist groups."
FOUGHT IN ANTI-SOVIET AFGHAN WAR
Benotman said Rahman, whose real name was Jamal Ibrahim
Ishtawi, was a graduate of the engineering department of Misrata
University and left Libya to go to Afghanistan in 1988 and join
the Islamist groups then fighting Soviet occupation.
He said Rahman was a personal acquaintance of his but was
never a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamist
guerrilla organisation that waged a failed insurgency to topple
Gaddafi in the 1990s and of which Benotman was a leader.
Rahman was one of al Qaeda's earliest members and worked for
the anti-Western militant group in Algeria and Mauritania as
well as Afghanistan, Benotman said.
In a statement posted on militant online forums on Feb. 23,
Rahman acknowledged that the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia
were not the "perfections for which we hoped," but they were
happy occasions nonetheless.
He dismissed the notion that al-Qaeda has a "magic wand" to
gather large armies and lead the charge to overturn governments
and rescue besieged Muslims, according to a translation by the
Site Intelligence Group, a U.S. monitoring company.
Rather, he wrote, "al Qaeda is a simple part of the efforts
of the jihadi Ummah (nation), so do not think of them to be more
than they are. We all should know our abilities and to try to
cooperate in goodness, piety and jihad in the Cause of Allah;
everyone in his place and with whatever they can and what is
suitable to them."