CIA Kills Pakistan al Qaeda Commander Abu Hamza Rabia

Dan Spencer passes on word that yet another senior al Qaeda leader was killed overnight:

Egyptian-born Abu Hamza Rabia, al-Qaeda’s operational commander, was among five men killed in a raid in North Waziristan on Thursday. He is believed to have worked closely with Libyan Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the head of al-Qaeda’s international operations wing, until al-Libbi’s capture in May.

Apparently, the CIA did the killing.

Dan Darling adds the following:

In order to understand Rabia’s significance, some history of al-Qaeda in Pakistan is useful. After al-Qaeda’s operations were disrupted in Afghanistan, the group’s military committee appears to have splintered into two autonomous nodes, one based in eastern Iran and the other in northern Pakistan. Working independently but in coordination with one another, these two leadership groups appear to have since supervised the network’s regrouping and reorganization efforts, such as the most recent decision to appoint Khalid Habib and Abd Hadi al-Iraqi as the new leaders of the network in Afghanistan to augment their most active domestic allies Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in some cases even using tactics modeled after those used by Zarqawi in Iraq.

With the help of Pakistan’s existing terrorist infrastructure, the Pakistani al-Qaeda leadership has tried, with varying degrees of success and failure, to reestablish the group’s terrorist training capacity by outsourcing its training programs to allied groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), maintain alliances with disaffected members of the Pakistani military and intelligence community, mount a domestic terrorist campaign against General Musharraf, and support the terrorist campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kashmir as well as other locations. Before his capture in March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the undisputed head of the Pakistan leadership, but following his loss an ad-hoc council seems to have sprung up consisting of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Hamza Rabia, Amjad Farooqi, Osama Nazir, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, and at least half a dozen other Pakistani and foreign al-Qaeda big-shots. As I noted here, it’s probably incorrect to describe Rabia as being the #3 leader in al-Qaeda, but he certainly was the head of al-Qaeda in Pakistan, which puts him in a rather unique position to do all of us here some major damage if one stops to appreciate what could happen should several high-ranking Pakistani officials be assassinated – and let me stress that Rabia and his co-conspirators have come damned close to killing General Musharraf on a number of occasions.

The same post features profiles of two other al Qaeda leaders killed over the last couple days.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Calls to mind Sir Winston’s quip about stopped clocks. The CIA got one right.

  2. Anderson says:

    Good news indeed—glad to see he’s not the fifth or sixth “# 3” we’ve nailed. Maybe he really is important.

    Makes me wonder about when we finally bag Osama. I would doubt we’ll take him alive.

    Should it be a major consideration to kill him in such a manner that we can prove we did it—retaining the body for ex? Wouldn’t it be a drag if we got him but couldn’t prove it, and Osama joined Elvis in hiding?

  3. Larry says:

    This is great news for all concerned. However, we must press forward and cut the head off the snake that is pursuing terrorism world wide. Cut the head off and the snake dies.

  4. auspatriotman says:

    The punk was a coward. Only the beginnng of the payback for the horrible attack on those children at Beslan. In case anyone has forgotten here is a site with graphic pictures of this hell-lacious incident. His evil was bought upon him. Good job CIA and whomever else.

    The religion of peace. Plf-f-f-f-f!

  5. auspatriotman says:

    I just read your post and the ‘head’ that needs to be cut off is at that friggin’ Grand Mosque in Mecca. Have you not read the 7 Step Plan nor heard of dahimitude?

    Or seen this from the latest madman in the mid-east, Ahmadinejad. He is the Messiah you know.

    Go. Click. Read! Its short and sweet.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Meanwhile seveal very nasty Al Queda types walzed out of custody in Afghanistan. Makes this more of a push then a win…

  7. Stan says:

    some day a totalitarian state will keep people in obeyance with drones.

  8. Bithead says:


    Good news indeed—-glad to see he’s not the fifth or sixth “# 3” we’ve nailed. Maybe he really is important.

    Among what you’re apparently missing;

    Concept: Promotion by attrition.

    Clue: We’ve been rather successful at killing their leadership off, of late; They’re running out of morons to lead them, anymore.

  9. un known says:

    US Missile Parts at Pakistan al Qaeda Target Site

    Sunday 04 December 2005

    Haisori, Pakistan – Pakistani tribesmen on Sunday displayed parts of a U.S.-marked missile they said hit a house and killed two boys, a possible explanation for a blast there which the government says killed a top al Qaeda commander.

    Whatever the cause of the explosion, the death of Abu Hamza Rabia would be a coup for Pakistan and the United States which describe him as al Qaeda’s chief of international operations.

    But his body has not been found.

    Sat amid the ruins of his mud and concrete-walled home in the restive North Waziristan tribal agency, Haji Mohammad Siddiq told Reuters his 17-year-old son and an eight-year-old nephew were killed in a missile attack, but denied there were any militants present.

    “I don’t know anything about them – there were no foreigners in my house,” Siddiq said. “I have nothing to do with foreigners or al Qaeda.

    “We were sleeping when I heard two explosions in my guest room. When I went there I saw my son, Abdul Wasit, and my eight-year-old nephew, Noor Aziz, were dead,” said the tribesman as he received condolences from relatives and neighbors.

    In Washington, U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley said he could not confirm the death of Rabia.

    “We’ve seen the reports out of Pakistan … We are not in a position at this point to publicly declare that he has been killed. If he has been killed, it’s a very good development,” Hadley said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

    Public Opinion

    He declined to comment on any U.S. role in the attack.

    “There are conflicting reports as to what happened,” he said. “But obviously, the details of these kinds of things are things that is best left for the Pakistanis to talk about.”

    Pakistan, sensitive to domestic public opinion, has denied U.S. drone aircraft have carried out missile strikes on its soil in the past.

    But tribesmen in Haisori showed U.S.-marked fragments of missiles they said hit the village early on Thursday. One piece of casing clearly bore the words US and MISSILE.

    “I heard more explosions and went out to the courtyard, and when I looked up at the sky, I saw a white drone,” said Siddiq. “I saw a flash of light come from the drone followed by explosions.”

    The tribesman, in his 50s, was asked to appear later this week before a court convened by government-appointed tribal agency officials.

    President Pervez Musharraf said on Saturday he was “200 percent” sure Rabia was dead.

    But confirmation of Rabia’s death is based on intelligence reports and message intercepts, intelligence sources said, and Pakistani security forces have still to find a body.

    Officials say Rabia’s corpse, along with those of two comrades, was removed by other fighters and buried secretly.

    An Arab television channel, al Arabiya, received a telephone call from an unidentified caller denying Rabia was dead.

    U.S. counterterrorism officials in Washington confirmed the significance of Rabia’s death, but gave no comment on how he might have been killed.

    U.S. drones are reported to have operated in the area before, and in May a drone missile attack was reported to have killed al Qaeda bombmaker, Haitham al-Yemeni, in North Waziristan.

    Pakistan denied an attack happened while the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment.

    Hundreds of militants fled to Pakistan after U.S.-led forces overthrew Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 for harbouring Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden himself is believed to have passed through North Waziristan during his escape.