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Updated: 05:17 PM EST
Blast Kills Senior al-Qaida Operative in Pakistan
By MUNIR AHMAD, AP

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Dec. 3) - One of al-Qaida's top five leaders, said to be responsible for planning overseas strikes, was killed by Pakistani security forces in a rocket attack near the Afghan border with U.S. help, American and Pakistani officials said Saturday.

Hamza Rabia, a key associate of al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri, died Thursday in an explosion in the North Waziristan tribal area, and his remains were identified in DNA tests, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity, confirmed Rabia's death but would not elaborate on the circumstances.

The officials said Rabia was believed to be an Egyptian and head of al-Qaida's foreign operations, possibly as senior as the No. 3 official in the terrorist group. That would put him in a tier just below Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri.
"He was al-Qaida's No. 5 and this is what we know," Ahmed told The Associated Press.
Rabia filled the vacuum created this year by the capture of the previous operations chief, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the two U.S. officials said.

As head of operations, Rabia would have been responsible for training, recruiting, networking and, most importantly, planning international terrorist activities outside the Afghan-Pakistan region.
One of the officials said Rabia also may have been involved in operations inside the region.
He had a wide array of jihadist contacts, the other official said, and was believed to be trying to reinvigorate al-Qaida's terrorist operations.

The circumstances of Rabia's death were still not clear.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said a missile attack triggered a huge explosion in a stockpile of bomb-making materials, grenades and other munitions.

Other Pakistani intelligence officials, also not identifying themselves for the same reason, said U.S. assistance played a critical role in tracking down Rabia and "eliminating the threat" that he posed.

Earlier, a top government administrator, Syed Zaheerul Islam, said Rabia died in an explosion while making bombs at a home near Miran Shah. Islam said the blast also killed four other people, including two local residents, and left two others injured, who have not been identified.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf confirmed Rabia had been killed.
"Yes, indeed, 200 percent confirmed," Musharraf said in Kuwait at the start of a three-nation visit in the Middle East.
Al-Libbi twice tried to assassinate Musharraf for making the Islamic nation a key ally of the United States in its war on terrorism. Al-Libbi was captured in northwestern Pakistan on May 2 and later turned over to Washington for further investigation.

The Dawn newspaper, citing sources it did not identify, reported that the attack on a mud-walled home near Miran Shah may have been launched from two pilotless planes. Miran Shah is a strategic tribal region where remnants of al-Qaida are believed to have been hiding and where Pakistani forces have launched several operations against them.
The newspaper reported that associates from outside Pakistan retrieved the bodies of Rabia and two other foreigners and buried them in an unknown location.
Military officials have said hundreds of Arab, Afghan and Central Asian militants are in North and South Waziristan.
Pakistan has deployed thousands of troops in the area, fighting intense battles with militants and killing and capturing several of them.
Officials have said they do not know the whereabouts of al-Zawahri or bin Laden.
Associated Press Writers Sadaqat Jan and Riaz Khan contributed to this report
12/03/05 16:59 EST
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press unless you are QKShooter then you can do whatever you want.
 

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Seems that way QK and superficially at least - Ooh-Rahhh!! Long ways to go tho and - always wonder, as one pair of shoes vacated - how many are there waiting to fill them.

Taking out the top boys certainly is encouraging but - with all the seemingly dead set (pun unavoidable!) types willing to strap on belly explosive belts - we have some ways to go yet. But - any progress is progress - that is some consolation.

This has become in many respects IMO a war of attrition - thus the reason why we have to stick it out after what we have gone thru so far.
 

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Great to see we got lucky and got one of the top guys.
 

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I had this conversation over on one of the political boards:

ME: I thought we already got the #3 AQ in that area?

Fr: We did and we got the next #3 guy, too. This is the new NEW #3 guy....

ME: Gee it must suck to be #4!
 
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