Islamabad: Abu Yahya Al Libi, a top Al Qaeda militant may have been killed in a drone strike in northwest Pakistan, the country’s intelligence officials said Tuesday.
Viewed as the most prominent figure in the network after Al Qaeda’s new chief Ayman Al Zawahri, Al Libi may have been killed in the strike, Online news agency quoted Pakistani intelligence officials as saying. He was viewed as one of Al Qaeda’s top strategists.
In case of the death being confirmed it could be the biggest blow to Al Qaeda since US special forces killed former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in Pakistan in May 2011, the report said.
Media reports quoting US sources said Al Libi, a Libyan cleric with a degree in chemistry who survived previous drone attacks, was a target of a strike early Monday in the North Waziristan tribal region.
Some US officials describe Libi, real name Mohamed Hassan Qaid, as number two to Al Zawahri who took over Al Qaeda after Osama’s death.
Pakistani intelligence officials told a British news agency they believe Al Libi may have been among seven foreign militants killed in Monday’s strike.
One of the officials said Pakistani authorities had intercepted telephone chatter about Al Libi. “We intercepted some conversations between militants. They were talking about the death of a ‘Sheikh’,” one of the Pakistani intelligence officials said, referring to the title given to senior religious leaders. They did not name this person but we have checked with our sources in the area and believe they are referring to Al Libi.”
A militant commander in North Waziristan closely associated with foreign fighters however said: “He has not been killed. This is not the first time claims have been made about his death. The Americans are suffering heavy losses in Afghanistan so they have resorted to making false claims.”
Reports from Pakistan said that during the sequence of strikes nearly 30 people were killed, including four suspected militants Saturday, another 10 Sunday, and 15 people in the strike in which Al Libi was targeted.