A US official has confirmed that senior al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi was killed in Monday’s drone strike in the North Waziristan tribal region.
Abu Yahya al-Libi, described by American officials as al Qaeda’s second in command, is a Libyan citizen with a $1 million bounty on his head.
A US pilot-less aircraft fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Hesokhel, east of Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan, before dawn on Monday.
At least 15 people were killed in the strike. Libi was among those killed, confirmed a US official to The Express Tribune in Washington.
Earlier, Pakistani officials said it was unclear whether Libi had been present at the compound, struck by the missiles or whether he had died.
The official said Libi had recently been considered by US counter-terrorism experts as the No 2 in the core al Qaeda group led by Ayman al Zawahiri.
A US official said that Abu Yahya “was among al Qaeda’s most experienced and versatile leaders” and that he “played a critical role in the group’s planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts”.
He said that Ayman al Zawahiri, who took over the network after Osama bin Laden’s death, “will be hard-pressed to find a person who can readily step into Libi’s shoes”.
In addition to his gravitas as a longstanding member of al Qaeda leadership, Libi’s religious credentials gave him the authority to issue fatwas, operational approvals, and guidance to the core group in Pakistan and regional affiliates. There is no one who even comes close in terms of replacing the expertise al Qaeda has just lost, said the US official.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2012.