The Bagram Four:
Abu Abdallah al Shami (upper left); Abu Nasir al Qahtani (upper right); Abu Yahya al Libi (lower left); Omar al Farouq (lower right).
Jihadi forums have been speculating that Abu Yahya al Libi, a chief al Qaeda ideologue and a popular leader in jihadi circles, may have been killed in yesterday’s airstrike in South Waziristan. Late yesterday, senior US officials contacted NBC and CBS and indicated that a senior al Qaeda leader had been killed. CBS said Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri were not killed, however. Views from the Occident trolled the jihadi forums and and dug up the rumors of al Libi’s death:
Rumors are spreading among some cyber jihadis that this as-yet unnamed “top” AQC [al Qaeda Central] leader may be Abu Yahya al-Libi, who is considered by some expert analysts to be a rising star in the transnational jihadi movement. A skilled orator and respected jihadi-Salafi theologian, Abu Yahya first gained renown in 2005 when he and several other prisoners escaped from the U.S. military base at Bagram in Afghanistan (which was also a former Soviet base). Since then, he has appeared in dozens of AQC video productions and has addressed jihadis across the globe from Somalia to East Turkestan to North Africa, though he is believed to be (or have been) operating out of Pashtun areas of Pakistan.
Abu Yahya al Libi was a military commander in Afghanistan until his capture by the US military during 2003. He rose to prominence in al Qaeda after he escaped from Bagram Prison in Afghanistan in the summer of 2005, along with senior al Qaeda operatives Abu Nasir al Qahtani, Abu Abdallah al Shami, and Omar Farouq.
Abu Yahya al Libi is the only member of the notorious “Bagram Four” still active in al Qaeda. Since the 2005 escape, two of his fellow escapees have been killed and another has been captured. In March 2009, the US put a $5 million bounty out for information leading to his arrest.
While the rumor certainly can’t be discounted, I suspect Abu Yahya al Libi was not in the Ladha region in South Waziristan. The Pakistani military is currently conducting an operation against the Taliban in the Mehsud tribal areas and claims to have occupied Ladha. The seniormost al Qaeda leaders would likely have vacated Ladha and other regions in the Mehsud tribal areas long before the Pakistani Army arrived.