WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi was reportedly killed in North Waziristan in Pakistan on Monday (June 4th), meeting the same fate as several other key Al-Qaeda leaders killed recently.
Initial media reports indicate that al-Libi was killed in a strike targeting a Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold along the Afghan border.
Al-Libi is regarded by his followers as a motivational figure with credentials that Al-Qaeda’s younger crop of leaders do not possess. He appeared in countless al-Qaeda videos and was considered the chief architect of its global propaganda machine.
Noman Benotman, a former leader in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, described al-Libi’s death as a “very serious blow” to Al-Qaeda.
Benotman told CNN that “no one else within the group rivals his legitimacy as a religious scholar nor has the credibility in the Arab world to provide Islamic justifications for al-Qaeda’s global campaign of terrorism.”
Afghan intelligence officials on Wednesday welcomed the news of al-Libi’s death. “Libi’s death is very important and useful for Afghanistan. He was heading the psychological war,” said Lufullah Mashal, spokesman for the Afghan intelligence National Directorate of Security agency.
“I hope his death will help defeat the psychological war of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan,” he told reporters.
According to documents found in his Abottabad house following his death, former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden struggled to deal with the rapid haemorrhaging of al-Qaeda leadership, especially in the Waziristan area.
In a letter to Atiyah Abdel Rahman, bin Laden had asked his leaders to move from Pakistan’s tribal region to rugged areas in Afghanistan to avoid getting killed.
In the documents, bin Laden showed little knowledge of the new generation of field commanders, entrusting seasoned commanders like Abdel Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi to bridge the gap between the two generations and to educate them on the ways of Al-Qaeda.
After Abdel Rahman’s death, al-Libi reportedly took over managing the relationship with the Al-Qaeda affiliates, which had become tense while bin Laden was still alive.
Benotman said al-Libi exerted significant influence on Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
“They respect him, love him and listen to him,” Benotman told CNN.
Al-Libi’s death could damage al-Zawahiri’s ability to ensure affiliates are following his guidance, he added.