The BBC reports that “senior Western counterterrorism officials” claim that the missile fired at a safe house in Pakistan two days ago killed Abu Laith al-Libi. Libi has “fallen as a martyr”, according to an Islamist website:
US intelligence agencies have been investigating reports that a top al-Qaeda figure was killed in the Afghan-Pakistan border area this week.
It follows a missile attack in Pakistan’s North Waziristan area in which 12 militants were reported killed.
While Western counter-terrorism officials told the BBC they believed Libi to be dead, they would not discuss how he was killed.
Some in American circles put the Libyan as #3 in al-Qaeda. He has appeared in AQ videos and internet communications, and in 2002 confirmed that Osama bin Laden had escaped Tora Bora. Abu Laith served as a field commander for AQ as well, crossing the border into Afghanistan to support the Taliban in their insurgent actions.
Seven months ago, the US tried killing al-Libi but hit a school instead. The incident caused a tremendous row with Afghanistan, and had many in the US questioning the conduct of the war there against the Taliban. The US had thought that al-Libi was worth the risk in collateral casualties, but it cost the government of Hamid Karzai support at the time and potentially weakened Kabul against the Taliban.
If they have killed al-Libi, it is a tremendous victory against AQ. It isn’t the end of the war by any means, but it will send their networks into disarray, potentially stalling other attacks in Afghanistan and elsewhere and exposing more targets as the network attempts to recover. (via CapQ reader Bob Estes)