Al Qaeda’s second in command has been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region, a US official has said.
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Abu Yahya al Libi is the latest in a series of the terror group’s most senior and powerful commanders to be removed by the US drone campaign in the region.
Al Libi, who had appeared in al Qaeda propaganda videos and escaped from an American military prison in Afghanistan in 2005, was a key figure in what remains of the core al Qaeda network.
Its founder, Osama bin Laden, was killed last year in a US commando raid on his hideout in Pakistan.
Al Libi “was among al Qaeda’s most experienced and versatile leaders”, the US official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The drone-launched missile was targeted at a suspected militant hideout in Hesokhel, a village in North Waziristan, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
The White House confirmed the death and described it as a “major blow” to the terrorist group and said there was no clear successor to take over al Libi’s role.
Spokesman Jay Carney described al Libi as al Qaeda’s “general manager”.
He was responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan and managing relations with affiliates – such as Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
“We have confirmation of his death,” said Mr Carney, adding: “There is now no clear successor to take on the breadth of his responsibilities.”
The US has carried out a flurry of drone strikes recently – seven in less than two weeks – targeting the terror network’s top leaders.
The White House maintains a list of terrorist targets to be killed or captured, compiled by the military and the CIA and ultimately approved by the president.
US President Barack Obama has presided over a relentless attempt to crush al Qaeda, including in Pakistan and Yemen, since taking office in 2009.
Last month, during a visit to Afghanistan, he said his goal of defeating the group behind the September 11 attacks in 2001 was “now within our reach”.