Al-Qaeda superstar bites it: CIA

Wanted al-Qaeda figure Abu Laith al-Libi was killed in Pakistan by a CIA air-strike, anonymous officials told CNN. Al-Libi was said to have been behind several attacks on US forces in Afghanistan, including the February 2007 bombing at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. He was on a “most wanted” list of 12 accused terrorists issued in October by the Combined Joint Task Force-82. The officials said al-Libi was killed by a missile fired from an airplane. “May God have mercy on Sheikh Abu Laith al-Libi and accept him with his brothers, with the martyrs,” said a eulogy posted on a leading Islamist site, Al-Ekhlaas.

Al-Libi is former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which later merged with al-Qaeda. Officials described al-Libi as part of al Qaeda’s inner circle, who helped fill the void created by the capture or death of more senior leaders after 9-11. CJTF-82 denied any knowledge of his death. (CNN, Jan. 31)

Is Al-Ekhlaas this one or this one?

Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, whi remains at large with a $25 million US bounty on his head, spoke to fans on the Internet earlier this month. More than 2,500 questions were fielded via three Islamist websites, including:

“Do you meet Sheikh Osama Bin Laden and how is his health?”

“How do I join al-Qaeda?”

“Why hasn’t there been another attack on America?”

“When will we see the men of Qaedat al-Jihad organization—may Allah preserve them and keep them in his care—doing Jihad in Palestine? …because frankly, the situation here has become extremely bad for us.”

(CBC, Jan. 27; AFP, Jan. 23)

See our last posts on Pakistan, Afghanistan and al-Qaeda.

NOTE: The New York Times makes clear that this strike was carried out without the consent of the Pakistani government.

  1. Any relation?
    From Associated Press of Pakistan, April 5:

    NEW YORK — In the nearly three years since his escape from a U.S. prison in Afghanistan, Abu Yahya al-Libi has quickly rocketed to fame in the world of jihadists, according to a dispatch in The New York Times.

    Al-Libi, a once-obscure Libyan preacher, is now considered to be a top strategist for Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda militant network, the newspaper said.

    Believed to be in late 30s, he is also being seen as one of the terror networks most effective promoters of global jihad, appearing in a dozen videos on militant web sites in the past year, The Times said.

    US Counter-terrorism officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying that at a time when Al Qaeda seems more inspirational than operational, Libi stands out as a formidable star whose rise to prominence tracks the group’s growing emphasis on information in its war with the West.

    “I call him a man for all seasons for A.Q. He’s a warrior. He’s a poet. He’s a scholar. He’s a pundit. He’s a military commander. And he’s a very charismatic, young, brash rising star within A.Q., and I think he has become the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden in terms of taking over the entire global jihadist movement,” the paper quoted Jarret Brachman, a research director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, as saying.

    The paper further goes on to say that Libi possesses one skill that Al Qaeda’s leaders of the past had been lacking—religious scholarship. Perhaps with this in mind, Al Qaeda is featuring Libi, who spent two years in Africa studying Islam, in as many of the videos as the group’s top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

    In these videos, Libi dons the role of a recruiter to an ideological enforcer. He also sheds light on Al Qaeda’s shifting tactics. In recent months, those tactics have come to include defensive maneuvers aimed at defusing the media counteroperations of the United States and its allies. Libi is using his videos not to expand Al Qaeda’s base, but to shore it up, says the paper.

    Libi began as a militant on a scholarly path, according to a Libyan man who says he knew him. His older brother, now imprisoned in Libya, had been a crucial figure in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, whose members went to Afghanistan to help defeat the Soviet Union.

    Libi, who went to Afghanistan in the early 1990s, was sent back to northern Africa to study Islam in Mauritania. When he returned two years later, Afghanistan was no longer a battleground for militant Libyans, but rather a haven: the Taliban controlled most of the country.

    Libi’s training in warfare was minimal, and his early work as a preacher rarely touched on militant action, according to the Libyan man who said he had met Libi in Afghanistan, and who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

    Then a year after 9/11, Mr. Libi was seized by Pakistani authorities and turned over to American authorities, who eventually put him in the Bagram prison.

    Libi escaped in 2005, and now uses the names Hasan Qaiid and Yunis al-Sahrawi. He has also become the leader of a Libyan contingent of fighters in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, particularly after the death this year of another key militant who went by the name of Abu Laith al-Libi. He is assumed to be living in the Afghan-Pakistani border area, The Times said.