PESHAWAR: There are strong indications that al-Qaeda’s No two and top strategist of the global terror network, Abu Yahya al-Libbi, was killed in the Monday drone attack in the Hasukhel village of Mir Ali subdivision.
Security officials based in the tribal region said they had intercepted internal conversations of militants in which they said the “Sheikh” had been martyred.
The drone had initially fired two missiles and pounded a house where six people were reportedly killed and five others injured. As neighbours and a group of militants arrived there to rescue victims of the drone strikes, the unmanned spy planes which were still hovering over the area fired two more missiles and killed another 10 people.
Most of the officials and Taliban sources said that Abu Yahya al-Libbi was killed in the second attack while some officials said he was seriously injured and taken to hospital where he expired.
Yahya al-Libbi was considered to be one of the few remaining top figures within al-Qaeda’s core.
One by one, most of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership has been killed in drone strikes in the tribal areas, a majority of them in North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal regions.
Abu Yahya al-Libbi, whose real name was Mohamad Hassan Qaed, belonged to Libya, and was presently serving number two to al-Qaeda chief Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who took over al-Qaeda after bin Laden’s death on May 2, 2011 in Abbottabad.
Taliban sources said after his escape from a US detention center in Afghanistan on July 10, 2005, al-Libbi came to Pakistan and settled in North Waziristan. “He initially lived in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan near the Afghan border, but later when the CIA started the drone strikes and killed a number of Arab fighters, he moved to Miranshah and later shifted to Mir Ali. He was a highly learned religious scholars and used to “issue fatwas on difficult issues,” a sources in Mir Ali said.
Also, sources said he was widely respected by the local tribespeople in Mir Ali as he was seen urging Pakistani militants to stop their fight against their own government and concentrate on Afghanistan. They said he had always led Eid prayers in the area.
Some Afghan Taliban close to him denied his death and said that this is not the first time the US had claimed to have killed him. “The Americans are actually suffering heavy losses in Afghanistan at the hands of the Mujahideen, which is why they made a claim of killing a senior al-Qaeda leader,” a member of the Afghan Taliban said. Al-Libbi was also declared dead in December 2009 in a similar drone attack in NWA.
In May 2011, shortly after bin Laden’s death, US officials identified Abu Yahya as one of five potential successors to the slain al-Qaeda leaders. If true, Abu Yahya would be the fourth of the five to have been killed in drone strikes.
Ilyas Kashmiri, al-Qaeda’s director of external operations, was killed on June 3, 2011 in Wana, while Abdul Rahman Atiya, bin Laden’s chief of staff, was killed on Aug 22.