Islamabad/London – Asharq Al-Awsat – Pakistani security sources have confirmed that a key figure of the Al Qaeda organization, Hamza Rabia, who was killed within Pakistan”s tribal belt Thursday, was the link between the Al Qaeda”s second man, Ayman Al Zawahiri and the movement of other cells.
Rabia, 38, was killed along with four other militants, two of whom were Arabs. They were killed in a missile attack that was launched by a U.S. expedition plane associated with American intelligence forces. The missile had targeted their refuge in Waziristan, near the border of Afghanistan. It is believed that Rabia was the successor of Abu Faraj Al-Libby, the third key figure of Al Qaeda, after his arrest by Pakistani forces last May. The Pakistani forces believe that Al Libby and Rabia were involved in two assassination attempts of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at the end of 2003. A reward of five million dollars was offered to anyone who could assist in the capturing of Rabia.
A Pakistani security official stated that American and Pakistani interrogation of Abu Faraj Al Libby indicated that Rabia was in direct contact with Al Zawahiri and that he had been the link between Al Zawahiri and a number of cells at least until last year. The same source added that the connection between Rabia and Al Zawahiri had broken over the past few months.
Yesterday, the Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao had asserted that the murder of Rabia has caused Al Qaeda a significant loss. The Pakistani source asserted that Rabia had survived a number of operations implemented against him by Pakistani security forces in the mountainous tribal region near the Afghan border. The source further states that last month, Rabia suffered severe injuries to his legs from an explosion that caused eight deaths in the tribal village of Musac. Some security forces stated that Rabia”s companions had moved him to another location in the region where he had received the necessary treatment.
A French news agency had reported that a Pakistani official stated that Rabia was a member of a group in Pakistan that was planning to carry out attacks in the United States and Britain. These plans were disclosed after the arrest of two of its members, Naeem Nour Khan and Ahmed Khalfan Ghilani. Ghilani, a Tanzanian citizen featured on the FBI”s list of wanted men as he was involved in two attacks that targeted the two American embassies in east Africa. Khan was an expert of information technology.
American officials have asserted that Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda”s leader as well as others, is in hiding near the Pakistani-Afghan border. Whereas Islamabad stated that it had arrested 700 men accused of belonging to the organization.
Steven Hadley, the American national security counselor, stated yesterday that the United States is currently analyzing information concerning the killing of Rabia, however it has not confirmed the incident.
President Pervez Musharraf had affirmed yesterday that Rabia had been murdered in Pakistan and told the Kuwaiti Press Agency, “Yesterday I informed you that I am two hundred percent positive that Rabia was murdered and today I tell you that I am five hundred percent positive of this.”