The News, December 3, 2005
Dead al-Qaeda No 3 not on FBI’s most wanted list
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
PESHAWAR: The alleged al-Qaeda regional commander, Hamza Rabia, killed in the multiple missile strike on a house near Mirali in North Waziristan tribal agency has been described by sections of the US media as al-Qaeda’s number three even though he is not on the FBI’s most wanted list.
The FBI list contains 14 names, including that of Osama bin Laden, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mulla Muhammad Omar. Pictures of the wanted men, mostly Arab nationals, are frequently published and publicised in newspaper advertisements in Pakistan and elsewhere to announce handsome rewards for their capture.
However, it is being claimed that Rabia figured in the CIA’s wanted list. It was also said a reward of $5 million was being offered for his capture. Even if true, this information was not released in the past and Rabia remained an unknown man until his reported death in the missile strike in Haisori village near Mirali.
Some of the American television channels and newspapers said Rabia replaced Abu Farraj al-Libbi as al-Qaeda operational commander in Pakistan following the latter’s capture in Mardan in May this year. Until then, he had been a deputy to al-Libbi, who was referred to by Pakistani and US government functionaries as the third most important al-Qaeda leader after bin Laden and Dr al-Zawahiri at that time. Like al-Libbi, Rabia too was accused of involvement in the plans to kill President Pervez Musharraf in two deadly attempts on his life on December 14 and December 25, 2003 in Rawalpindi.
President Musharraf confirmed Rabia’s death in the North Waziristan operation while talking to reporters upon reaching Kuwait on Saturday. He exuberantly announced that it was 200 per cent true that the al-Qaeda commander was among those killed in the attack.
Terming Rabia’s killing as a big deal, an American official was quoted as saying that he was among the top five men in al-Qaeda. Rabia is an Egyptian and not Syrian as reported earlier. Dr al-Zawahiri, also from Egypt, is said to have brought Rabia into al-Qaeda.
Rabia had reportedly survived a similar missile strike in Mosaki village near Mirali on November 5. Eight people, including Rabia’s wife and children, were killed in that attack. Unlike the Pakistan government officials who insisted that Rabia was killed by a blast caused by explosives stored in a house for bomb-making, sections of the US media were reporting that laser-guided missiles fired by a US Predator aircraft hit the safe house where the wanted men were hiding. The reports also said the pilot-less airplane had flown from a base in Afghanistan.
Local tribesmen picked up remnants of the missiles from the house and showed US-made signs on the debris to reporters and photographers at the site of the attack. They claimed missiles fired by the US drone destroyed the house owned by one Sadiq and killed the five persons, including three Arab nationals and two Pakistanis. The Pakistanis who lost their lives in the attack were Sadiq’s seven-year-old son Mohammad Aziz and 17-year-old nephew Abdul Waseed. Unknown men reportedly carried away the bodies of Rabia and the two other Arabs killed in the attack.
Despite Pakistan government denials, tribesmen in the areas bordering Afghanistan believe US drones were involved in some of the missile attacks on suspected hideouts of militants in both South and North Waziristan. In South Waziristan, the tribesmen still insist that a laser-guided missile fired by a CIA-managed Predator in early 2004 killed Nek Muhammad, a commander of Pakistani tribal militants.