Banner announcing Abu Laith al Libi’s death.
The fallout from the Jan. 29 airstrike is settling, and it appears a senior al Qaeda leader was killed in the attack in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Abu Laith al Libi was killed in the attack, according to a posting at a prominent jihadi website.
The Ekhlaas forum posted a banner praising the martyrdom of al Libi. “We ask God to accept and embrace Shahydna [martyrdom] Libyan Abu Zuhri,” a well-known poster stated in a thread at the forum.
Al Libi was a prominent al Qaeda leader, but he is not the third or fourth in command of al Qaeda, as CNN has reported. Saif al Adel is currently believed to be al Qaeda’s third in command and strategic planner, while Abu Ubdaydah al Masri and Matiur Rehman are believed to have split the roles of senior operational leader. Rehman also heads al Qaeda in Pakistan, and al Masri commands al Qaeda forces in eastern Afghanistan.
Al Libi was a top-tier al Qaeda leader. He was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and also served as a chief spokesman for al Qaeda. Laith also commanded al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. As leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, he announced the terror group’s merger with al Qaeda in November 2007.
There was some initial confusion over who was killed in the strike. A senior poster at Ekhlass indicated Abu Yahya al Libi, and not Abu Laith al Libi, was killed in the strike. “Jihadis online speculated over whether it was Abu Yahya al-Libi who was killed,” said Nick Grace, who monitors jihadi web forums. “But that this speculation ended when al Qaeda issued the official notice through al Fajr Information Center, al Qaeda’s official information distribution network.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.