The Pakistani army reports that one of Osama’s lieutenants has hit his jackpot of 72 virgins Thursday after getting blown up with four of his colleagues in North Waziristan. Abu Hamza Rabia, a co-equal of Abu Faraj al-Libi in the AQ executive and rumored to be the fifth-highest ranking member of AQ, ran international operations for Osama bin Laden:
Abu Hamza Rabia, an Egyptian credited with heading al Qaeda’s international operations, was among five militants killed in an explosion at a house where they were hiding in North Waziristan on Thursday.
Musharraf, arriving in Kuwait on an official visit, confirmed Rabia had been killed.
“Yes indeed, 200 percent. I think he was killed the day before yesterday if I’m not wrong,” Musharraf told reporters.
While officials said the blast was caused by explosives stored in the house for bomb-making, residents said a helicopter fired rockets into the house at a village near Mir Ali in the tribal agency. …
Intelligence officials earlier on Saturday told Reuters that Rabia was using the alias ‘Nawab’, and they subsequently intercepted a message passed between militants saying Nawab was dead.
They said Rabia had escaped an attack by Pakistani security forces on November 5 in the same region but eight people, including his wife and children, were killed in that operation.
It doesn’t make much difference to me whether Rabia blew himself up or got assistance from the Pakistani Army in dying; his death puts us closer to cutting Osama and Ayman al-Zawahiri completely. The more of these senior commanders that die, the more Osama and Ayman need to stick their necks out to get things done — and that presents more opportunity to capture and/or kill them.
However, if Rabia did die accidentally from a bomb backfire, it calls into question how much AQ has left in its tank in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why would a senior commander build his own bombs, dangerous work under the best of circumstances, or even be in the same area where that work took place? With its assets dwindling, AQ in that region may not have any more explosives experts to spare, and so the senior commanders might have to do double duty. If the Pakistani reports are accurate, it looks like AQ has lost its best assets in the region and are barely clinging to life in the border region of Waziristan.
UPDATE: Even better news — MS-NBC says the CIA took out Rabia:
While Pakistani officials publicly said Rabia died in a blast caused by explosives stored in a house for bomb-making, officials speaking on condition of anonymity told NBC News he was killed by a CIA missile strike carried out by an unmanned Predator airplane.
Pakistan’s government has always been reticent to admit that Predators are used in Pakistani airspace to hunt down al-Qaida operatives.
Here’s a picture of a calling card from Uncle Sam to al-Qaeda during this holiday season:
If they flip that over, I’d love to think that an inscription says, “You can run, but you can’t hide forever.” The CIA must have gotten some good intel from a series of captures that followed that of al-Libi earlier. That should shake up the rest of the AQ commanders who think they’re tucked safely away in Waziristan, and perhaps get them on the move again — an opportunity for us to take out a few more.