A U.S. strike has killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the second-in-command of Al Qaeda and its "operational leader," the Associated Press reported Saturday afternoon. The report, which cites an anonymous U.S. official, says al-Rahman was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan, on Aug. 22, the same day that a missile from a U.S. drone struck Waziristan.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in July that "al-Qaida's defeat was within reach if the U.S. could mount a string of successful attacks on the group's weakened leadership," the AP noted. More from the AP:
"Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them," Panetta said, "because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaida as a major threat."
Al-Rahman was killed Aug. 22 in the lawless Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, according to the official said, who insisted on anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.
The official would not say how al-Rahman was killed. But his death came on the same day that a CIA drone strike was reported in Waziristan. Such strikes by unmanned aircraft are Washington's weapon of choice for killing terrorists in the mountainous, hard-to-reach area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.