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US Officials Confident Al-Qaida's No. 2 Killed in Pakistan

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Al Qaida's deputy chief, who US officials say was killed in northwestern Pakistan on August 22, 2011

U.S. officials say they are highly confident that al-Qaida's deputy chief has been killed in Pakistan.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official told VOA that as head of al-Qaida's daily operations, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman was highly vulnerable. The official said Rahman was responsible for going out and establishing contacts and communicating with al-Qaida operatives.

The Libyan national was reportedly killed on August 22 in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region. The area is a known refuge for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants.

Pakistani military officials said Monday they still had no confirmation of Rahman's death.

The U.S. counterterrorism official told VOA that the cumulative effect of Rahman's death on al-Qaida in Pakistan is "tremendous."

The official said Rahman's death just adds to the disruption and confusion within al-Qaida. The terrorist network's leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed during a U.S. special forces raid on a compound in Pakistan on May 2.

Rahman rose to al-Qaida's number two spot after the death of bin Laden.

Computer files recovered from bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan are said to reveal Rahman's deep involvement in running the terror network. The files show that Rahman was in regular communication with bin Laden.

In June, al-Qaida picked Ayman al-Zawahri to succeed bin Laden as head of the terror organization.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the defeat of al-Qaida is within reach if the U.S. military can mount a series of successful attacks on the group's leadership.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.