Abu Yahya al Libi rumored killed in Mir Ali drone strike

Abu Yahya al Libi.

ABC News has reported that Abu Yahya al Libi, Ayman al Zawahiri’s deputy and a top religious figure in al Qaeda, may have been killed in today’s drone strike in Mir Ali:

A top al Qaeda leader and longtime Osama Bin Laden confidant with a $1 million price tag on his head was targeted in a U.S. drone strike this morning in Pakistan, according to a senior U.S. official.

Pakistan officials say that Abu Yahya al-Libi, second-in-command to current al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was among the 15 people killed when a U.S. drone fired four missiles into a suspected militant hideout in Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan, at 5:30 a.m. local time Monday.

The senior U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that al-Libi was the target of a strike, but said the U.S. is still trying to confirm that he was killed. “This would be big” if confirmed, said the official.

My sources in US intelligence also have said that al Libi was indeed the target of today’s strike, but they cannot confirm if he was killed.

Al Qaeda has not released a statement announcing his death. However, As Sahab, the terror group’s propaganda arm, often takes days, weeks, or even months before releasing a martyrdom statement on top leaders.

It would not be unusual for al Libi to be operating in North Waziristan. He is known to have been in North Waziristan in the fall of 2011 to broker the creation of the Shura-e-Murakeba, a Taliban alliance that consists of four major Taliban groups that operate in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The four groups in the alliance are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud; Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s group; Mullah Nazir’s group; and the Haqqani Network. The leadership of each group has appointed a deputy to represent them on the council.

Background on Abu Yahya al Libi

Abu Yahya al Libi, a top leader in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, served 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. Al Libi is the only member of the notorious “Bagram Four” active in al Qaeda. Two of his fellow escapees have been killed and another has been captured since the 2005 escape. Al Libi’s escape and subsequent mocking of the US in propaganda tapes have made him a star in al Qaeda.

Al Libi has become one of al Qaeda’s most prolific propagandists. He has appeared in more al Qaeda propaganda tapes since 2006 than any other member of the terror group, including bin Laden and Zawahiri. He has weighed in on some of the most controversial and important issues on al Qaeda’s agenda. He was the first al Qaeda leader to urge the Pakistani people and the Army to turn against then-President Pervez Musharraf’s regime after the military stormed the radical Red Mosque in the heart of Islamabad.

Al Libi is considered to be a combative leader. He has chastised Islamists who have denounced al Qaeda’s methods and ideology. And he has urged clerics to come fight against Americans and NATO and to wage real jihad instead of criticizing al Qaeda.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • gerald says:

    If true,this is awesome news. The only way these killers will be brought to justice!!

  • chris says:


  • Setrak says:

    If true it represents a major major blow to al Qaeda Central. If something happened to Zawahiri, it probably would have been Kashmiri(rumored dead), or al-Libi(rumored dead) as favorites to take the top spot. Who’s left now if these rumors are true?

  • chris says:

    I would think that Saif al Adel would be next in line if or better yet WHEN al Zawhiri is killed. Just a guess though….. Lets bring him to justice (kill him) and find out….

  • mike merlo says:

    While it would be great news if Libi was killed the fact that ‘they’re’ hot on his trail is almost just as good if not better. Hopefully he was mortally wounded & will linger on life support for a while.

  • JT says:

    While I don’t share your wish for suffering, I do wonder if any of these guys have a “come to Allah” moment at the end or if they stick to their Islam-is-the-only-way story.

  • Vienna,June 5,2012
    Let it be clear that listing and tagging is based on
    the past,history.The future heroes are hidden. The
    known and unknown enemies both types are important.
    That means drones have hands full. From outside of
    the lawless Pakistan they are obliged to eradicate the
    live threats to the humanity.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM
    India–Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • Villiger says:

    Bill, you omitted to mention that we have been here before, ie a rumour. Link to your blog of 2009 below.
    As you say, we will know when AQ wants us to know. Or, when pAQ is permitted access by their partners, in possession of their sovereignty, to verify the facts.
    Paqistan allows AQ/T to hold this area freely so they can ransom the US to an illegitimate toll of 5000 bucks a truck. Thats in addition to the billions they collect without passing ‘go’.
    Check out this article by this well-respected Pashtun woman:
    “Taliban are Pak Army proxies, not Pashtun nationalists – VI”

  • Devendra says:

    I would rather Al Libi is seriously wounded and a cripple for life. So, the bastards have to carry him for the rest of his, hopefully long, life. Makes them more vulnerable, slows them down and easier to trace.
    Now he can make those tapes from his bed with the bed pan for decoration.

  • JimBoMo says:

    @ Mike. Excellent point…I assume your are referencing the “minor wounds” he received in the May strike. Presumably someone close to al-Libi has passed on targeting intel at least twice and that person remains undetected even as AQ counter-intelligence must have been scrutinizing al-Libi’s closest aides. That suggests real intrigue, disaffection, gamesmanship and distrust within the highest ranks. A little internal witch hunting and purging might follow.

  • Stephanie says:

    We’ll have to wait and see how the story develops, but my guess is that if they don’t know right away that means they didn’t get him. Remember the Damadola airstrike in January 2006 (targeting Ayman al-Zawahiri, then it turned out he wasn’t in the village at all at the time, but it took 24 hrs or so for the news to surface)? If they don’t know if he was killed or not, that means they didn’t immediately find any physical evidence of him, which means he probably wasn’t there. My guess.

  • c hoagland says:

    one of these days somebody will spot al Zawhiri having tea with paki ISA a block from the palace in islamabad.
    keep up the drones , ought to block cell phones in the tribal areas so the bad guys have to leave their hide outs to talk

  • W. Jeff Berry II says:

    While I am very grateful and pleased with our men and women who are actively in the fight against radical Islamists. It is unfortunate that we are not capturing and questioning guys like al Libi. Though the question does remain, how are we getting our current targeting information?

  • Charu says:

    Being AQ #2 is like being the drummer for Spinal Tap. Here today, gone tomorrow.
    No wonder that the Pakistanis were even more upset that usual about this drone strike. Their high value assets are fast dwindling, and they may be worried that Hafiz Saeed may be next on the list.

  • Henri says:

    Confirmed by U.S. Officials on 6/5..

  • ArneFufkin says:

    It’s heartening to know David Petraeus is at the GWOT helm while the feckless politicians do their feckless politicking.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    NBC News just confirmed this dirtbag was indeed killed. And an Al Qaida website confirmed his death also..bye bye scumbag. Another successfull drone hit!

  • wallbangr says:

    @W. Jeff Berry II: We can’t capture and interrogate these guys because they are being sheltered on Pakistani soil. Our so-called allies in in Islamabad refuse to deal with the Waziristans or the FATA (mostly because the few times they have tried, they got owned by the TTP and were forced to sign a peace deal which the TTP have never really honored). Hence, the drone strikes. While I would love it if we poured hundreds of thousands of US troops to clear, hold and rebuild the FATA region, the Paks will never have it. Just recall the self-righteous indignation over the cross border attack in November that killed 24 Pak soldiers which has subsequently shut all NATO supply traffic through Pakistan. The Paks are big on the notion of soveriegnty Well, at least their own. Never mind that their policies routinely violate their neighbors’ soveriegnty. Regardless, we would have to fight a war against the Pak government in order to invade the FATA.
    Instead, we have resorted to a cold war of sorts. The Paks initially only feigned outrage at the drone campaign in FATA. That’s mostly because we were waxing a lot of guys who had it in for the Pak government itself. Since the November scandal, their outrage appears to have gained an air of legitimacy — probably more as a result of being fed up with US policies in general than actually opposing the killing of many of these characters. So they keep making vague threats and fanning the flames of local outrage by protesting the drone strikes. They have implied that their consent to the use of their airspace to attack militants hiding out in FATA might somehow interplay with their thinly veiled attempt to use the NATO supply issue as a way to extract more blood money from us. Seeing as how their bluff was essentially called in that attempt, and that the Paks have little recourse insofar as actually stopping the drones, the US is now giving the Paks a little taste of their own medicine: a bit of the old “What are you going to do about it?”
    Surely we must have *some* humint capabilities on the ground in FATA, though I tend to doubt that we have too many sources. It is a rough territory where locals are by default hostile to Americans. A Raymond Davis type can’t simply show up and recruit sources very easily. And don’t forget what the Pak government does to locals found working with the Americans to track terrorists (see Dr. Afridi). I strongly suspect that our targeting information comes mostly from sigint and other technologies. We have thrown some serious time, energy and money into these other technologies, because we have had to get creative to retain plausible deniability in our cold war with Pakistan. The best thing about getting intel this way is that the guys targeted all assume it is humint and that has sown a lot of anxiety mistrust amongst them. They vascilate betweeen blaming moles and rats in their own ranks and believing conspiracy theories about the Americans having ESP, Jedi-mind-control and flying saucers at their disposal. From their perspective, these conspiracies are perhaps not so far fetched. Don’t forget that for every pred strike you hear about (in which the targets rarely know that imminent death from above is coming), there are likely many other drones circling the area gathering intel. Big Brother is watching from his many eyes in the skies. Sleep well in FATA, friends.

  • Bungo says:

    I believe that there is cooperation with Pak Intelligence and CIA in locating, targeting and approving the stand-off termination of high level (and every other level for that matter) Al Quedas who are almost always non-Paks. The Pak Mil , however, draws the line at Taliban and other Pak nationals. They also draw the line at ISAF forces actually going into Pak territory. It’s really that simple and for all I know, that and our acess of their roads and ports is pretty much the limits of their cooperation in the War On Terror. This has been public information for quite a while now. Intelligence and targeting uses every trick available including American CIA officers on the ground in Pak working alongside Pak intel officers. as far as other humint I have read several srories alluding to the use of Pak agents in Waziristan, typically for money. I have to assume this is true and still going on. How many of these Pak agents exist is anybodys guess.

  • mike merlo says:

    re: JT
    I’m 1/2 Sicilian mercy is not part of our genetic structure.
    re: wallbangr
    actually there is humint activity taking on the ground in FATA in much more significant numbers than people realize. In fact more opponents are probably being killed in FATA by humint than by drones. Pakistan has about much say or control in FATA as the Laotians or Cambodians did with the Ho Chi Minh trail

  • wallbangr says:

    @mike merlo: Do tell! Kidding. The people who need to know this stuff already do.
    Still, I’m curious if what you are saying is that humint is resulting in better *intel* than the intel gathered by drones? A gun advocate might put it this way: humint doesn’t kill people, people kill people. Presumably, humint is helping people kill the right people. And more of them.
    Whatever the case, it appears to be bearing fruit. And keeping the enemy (alongside some of our nominal allies) scratching their heads and looking over their shoulders can’t be a bad thing.

  • blert says:

    The worst kept secret in the FATA is that the CIA has astounding RFID chips that permit finks to finger AQ players without detection.
    This notion swirls through the Pakistani press.
    No when you consider just how many locals have been bumped off by the Taliban and AQ crews — vendetta does come to mind.
    I seriously doubt that finks are getting big money. For starters, there’s nothing to spend it on. Next, any unexplained income is a tell — leading to horrific consequences.
    ( c.f. the film ‘Traffic’ as to what capture can mean. )
    The worst thing that might happen when we speculate as to how the CIA is getting the goods — is that we might actually get it right.
    Hence, it’s best all around to just not speculate. The opfor trolls the Internet; don’t you doubt it.

  • wallbangr says:

    @blert: Good thing the opfor doesn’t know about tinfoil wallets. Nor the matching hats!

  • mike merlo says:

    what I meant was besides the information being generated by technology ‘platforms’ like drones, satellites etc., & humint ISAF & the Afghans also have people on the ground making regular forays into FATA who are ambushing & assassinating Taliban & their associates on the home turf.


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