- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
Top al-Qaeda leader reported dead
Libi has appeared in a number of al Qaeda videos (Photo: US DIA)
A senior al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed, Western counter-terrorism officials have told the BBC.
News of his death emerged on a website used by Islamist groups. Ekhlaas.org said he had "fallen as a martyr".
There is speculation that he was killed by a US missile strike in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan this week.
A dozen militants were reported killed in the attack. US intelligence agencies said they were checking the reports.
A Pakistani daily paper, the News, reported that the suspected US strike was aimed at Libi and another senior figure, Obaidah al-Masri.
Libi has appeared in a number of al-Qaeda videos. In November he appeared alongside al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri.
ABU LAITH AL-LIBI
Born: Libya, around 1941
Description: 6'4" tall, solid build, dark hair and eyes, scars on back
Role: Senior operations commander; al-Qaeda spokesman
He has acted as a spokesman for the group, announcing in 2002 that Osama Bin Laden and Taleban leader Mullah Omar had survived the US invasion of Afghanistan.
Libi was under US intelligence surveillance and most details about him are classified, says the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner.
"This individual is in the top half-dozen figures in al-Qaeda... who has a long record of military activity on behalf of al-Qaeda," an unnamed Western official told Reuters news agency.
He is thought to be one of al-Qaeda's most senior field commanders in Afghanistan, and to have directed a number of recent suicide bomb attacks in the east of the country.
Reports say he was also active across the border in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Local officials in Pakistan said on Tuesday that 12 militants had been killed in a missile strike from "an unknown direction" that hit a village near Mir Ali.
Residents reported having seen a drone aircraft in the region before the attack.
On Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials said 13 people had died - seven Arabs and six Central Asians.
One told Reuters: "The missile appeared to have been fired by a drone."
Correspondents say the US has launched a number of strikes at suspected militants in Pakistan - some of them missiles fired by drones.
Pakistan has repeatedly insisted that it will not accept foreign military action on its territory.
Two years ago Pakistan complained to the US after a similar strike, reportedly aimed at al-Qaeda number two Zawahri, killed 18 people in a village near the Afghan border.
Most analysts say Libi's death would be a blow to al-Qaeda, both symbolically and operationally, our correspondent says.
But al-Qaeda has proved itself to be resilient to individual losses and setbacks, and no-one is predicting an immediate decline in attacks in the region, says our security correspondent.