Today As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda outlet, released a videotape of Abu Yahya al Libi, who was reportedly killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan on June 4. The video addresses the Syrian conflict. The SITE Intelligence Group notes that the “video production date merely gives the Hijri year 1433, meaning it was produced sometime after November 2011.” From the SITE statement announcing the video:
The message post with the video on the forums includes “may Allah protect him” after Libi’s name, an honorific that is usually reserved for individuals who are alive, which may indicate that al-Fajr [the online distribution outlet for As Sahab] believes him to be alive or is awaiting official confirmation from al-Qaeda as to his fate.
Al Qaeda will say “may Allah have on mercy him” when referring to a leader who is dead.
But this doesn’t mean that al Libi is alive. Here is what I said on June 10, when As Sahab announced that a video of al Libi was in the pipeline:
Keep in mind that al Qaeda released a Ramadan video by Atiyah Abd al Rahman less that two weeks after he was killed. The tape and the accompanying announcement appear to have been created prior to Atiyah’s death.
Al Qaeda has yet to either officially announce Abu Yahya’s death or deny the reports of his death. But as the Atiyah incident shows, there is precedent for al Qaeda to release a tape of a leader after he was reported killed but before his death was officially announced.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.