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.