A top al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan is thought to have been killed in a US missile attack in Pakistan earlier this week. Abu Laith al-Libi was reportedly in a hideout in the Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan border when a Predator drone hit. He is accused of masterminding a deadly bombing at a US military base in Afghanistan last year.
Waziristan on the Pakistani-Afghan border is said to be a haven for extremists
The news spread like wildfire across cyberspace. Websites with links to al-Qaeda announced that Abu Laith al-Libi and 12 other brothers had fallen as martyrs. Anonymous sources in security circles in the US quickly confirmed the news.
The Libyan al-Qaeda commander is believed to have died during a rocket attack in Pakistan’s tribal region on the Afghan border earlier this week. The attack is thought to have been carried out by an unmanned US Predator drone belonging either to the US military or secret services.
Observers reported that the attack had targeted a building in North Wazistan believed to house extremists. Al-Libi is thought to have taken refuge in the region in recent years. Security experts say the commander had good links with the Pashtun tribal population and close contacts with the Taliban. But neither Washington nor Islamabad has confirmed this.
Pakistani media, such as Geo TV which only recently returned to air, reported that the government had not yet confirmed the death of al-Libi. The Ministry of the Interior also made no comment.
US operations on Pakistani soil are very controversial. Islamabad has advised against US anti-terror actions in Pakistan because of the anti-American feeling among a majority of the population.
Abu Laith al-Libi is thought to have been one of the top al-Qaeda commanders after Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Eiman al-Sawahiri. Born in Libya, he became an active Islamist in the 1980s, later forging close links with al-Qaeda.
In recent years, he kept cropping up in al-Qaeda videos and was thought to be running a training camp in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Al-Libi is also thought to have masterminded the deadly bomb attack on a US military base last year, which killed over 20 people when US Vice President Cheney was visiting Afghanistan last year.
The Taliban initially claimed responsibility for the attack but later experts concluded that al-Qaeda was probably behind the attack -- a sign of strong inter-connections between the two extremist organisations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to sources in the secret services, the links between fighters in the region and foreign extremists have grown even stronger in recent months.
Experts say al-Libi’s death is a serious setback for al-Qaeda. He was extremely important for planning the terrorist network’s operations. But they have few doubts that the well-organised terror group will only be weakened temporarily and will have little difficulty finding a replacement for al-Libi.