Rahman was linked with some of al-Qaeda’s boldest operations, including the December 2009 bombing of a CIA compound in Khost, Afghanistan, that left seven agency employees dead. The suicide bomber Humam al-Balawi lured the CIA officers into a trap in part by using a videotape that was purported to be footage of a meeting between Balawi and Rahman. In fact, Rahman was involved in a setup in which he served as bait, helping Balawi secure an invitation to the CIA base at Khost.
A Pakistani intelligence official in the North Waziristan region said four missiles had been fired in the Monday drone strike, two at a vehicle and two at the guest house of a tribal leader. The strikes occurred in Nork, about 12 miles from Miranshah, a town that has been a focal point of the escalating drone campaign for the past two years. Five people were killed in the attack on the vehicle, the Pakistani official said, but it was unknown whether any were killed in the guest house.
A second Pakistani official said that Rahman was “very active and always on the move,” that he had recently been in Mir Ali and had been spotted with both Taliban fighters and Uzbek militants. Rahman sought to cultivate support among locals by providing seed money for shops and businesses, including an auto parts shop, according to a pro-militant tribal elder in Mir Ali.
“If he is lost as reported, this will be a serious blow both in planning and also financially,” the elder said.
Rahman is believed to have served as a liaison between al-Qaeda and Algerian radicals as early as 1993 at a time when militants were waging a civil war against that North African nation. He had previously fought as a guerilla against the Algerian government in the mid-1990s.
But instead of welcoming him, an Algerian rebel network, the Armed Islamic Group, placed Rahman under detention and threatened to execute him for reasons that remain unclear. He and a handful of other Libyan prisoners escaped after five months and fled the country, according to a Libyan political exile familiar with the episode.
Rahman eventually returned to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda’s fold and became one of its leaders after the Sept. 11 attacks, serving as a liaison for al-Qaeda-linked groups in Iraq, Iran and Algeria.
In 2006, the U.S. government posted a $1 million reward for information on Rahman’s whereabouts.
Staff writers William Wan, Joby Warrick, Karen Deyoung and Craig Whitlock in Washington and contributor Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.