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Missile strike kills terror chief

Al Qaida's second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, US and Pakistani officials have said.

A Libyan national, al-Rahman never had the worldwide name recognition of bin Laden or bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. But al-Rahman was regarded as an instrumental figure in the terrorist organisation, trusted by bin Laden to oversee al Qaida's daily operations.

When Navy SEALs stormed Osama bin Laden's compound and killed him in May, they found evidence of al-Rahman's deep involvement in running al Qaida.

Al-Zawahiri is running the group but is considered a divisive figure who lacks the founder's charisma and ability to galvanise al Qaida's disparate franchises.

A US official said al-Rahman's death will make it harder for Zawahiri to oversee what is considered an increasingly weakened organisation.

"Zawahiri needed Atiyah's experience and connections to help manage al Qaida," the official said.

Al-Rahman was killed on August 22 in the lawless Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, according to a senior administration official.

A Pakistani intelligence official said al-Rahman died in a US missile strike in Machi Khel village in North Waziristan.

Intelligence officials had said at the time that four people were killed in the attack.

But a CIA drone strike was reported that day 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.

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