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Special report: Al-Qaida

Al-Qaida archived articles

 In this section
One of Bin Laden's top six aides is killed in suspected US strike

Top al-Qaida leader 'killed' in Afghanistan

The demise of al-Qaida's 'number three' Abu Laith al-Libi

US attorney general again ducks questions over waterboarding

'Enemy combatant' receives 17-year US jail term

Two tourists among dead in Yemen attack

Pakistani troops kill up to 90 insurgents

Government to stamp down on terror 'grooming' websites

US seizes arms dumps and kills 60 militants in new Iraq offensive

US drops 18 tonnes of explosives on al-Qaida 'safe havens' in Iraq

Nine soldiers die in two attacks

US targets al-Qaida insurgents with massive air strikes

Militants kill eight elders in Pakistan before ceasefire talks

Al-Qaida's new line: videos for mobile phone

New Bin Laden tape warns Sunnis against working with US

7.45pm GMT update

Top al-Qaida leader 'killed' in Afghanistan

Ian Black, Haroon Siddique and agencies
Thursday January 31, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

One of al-Qaida's top leaders in Afghanistan has been killed, western intelligence officials said today., a website that often posts communiqu├ęs from Afghanistan and Iraq, reported that Abu Laith al-Libi - his name suggests he is a Libyan national - had fallen as a "martyr", without giving further details.

Libi is said to have been behind last February's bombing at the US base at Bagram during a visit by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, which killed 23 people.

"It appears at this point that Libi has met his demise," said one western official. "It was a major success in taking one of the top terrorists in the world off the street."

He added that the death occurred "within the last few days".

Libi joined the Afghan mujahedin in the 1980s to fight Soviet occupation and tried to overthrow the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadafy in the early 1990s.

When the plot failed he fled to Saudi Arabia. He was arrested in the aftermath of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings, which killed 19 US military personnel and spent time in prison in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, but somehow escaped or was released.

Libi eventually returned to Afghanistan where he became a key link between the Taliban and al-Qaida.

He was among America's 12 "most-wanted" terrorists in Afghanistan and a $200,000 reward was being offered for his capture.

Although the circumstances of Libi's death were unclear, immediate speculation centred on a US missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan region earlier this week.

The attack had targeted second or third-tier al-Qaida leaders, according to residents in the tribal area.

Pakistani intelligence officials and local residents said that a missile hit a compound in a village about 2.5 miles outside Mir Ali in North Waziristan late Monday or early Tuesday, destroying the facility.

Residents said they were not allowed to approach the site of the blast and the Pakistan government and military said they did not know who fired the missile. Local officials said that foreigners were targeted in the attack.

One intelligence official in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bodies of those killed were badly mangled by the explosion and it was difficult to identify those killed.

The official said the dead included Arabs, Turkmen from central Asia, and local Taliban members.

Two top officials of Pakistan's interior ministry, who said they did not know who fired the missile, could not confirm Libi's death.

Tribesmen said a deputy of Libi had been staying there and was among the dead, according to another intelligence official.

Pakistani counterterrorism officials say Libi - "the Libyan" in Arabic - served as an al-Qaida spokesman and commander in eastern Afghanistan.

Al-Qaida's media wing, al-Sahab, released a video interview with a bearded man identified as Libi last spring. In it, the militant accused Shia Muslims of fighting alongside American forces in Iraq, and claimed that mujahideen would crush foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Major Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, said last year that Libi was a guerrilla fighter "knowledgeable about how to conduct suicide bombing missions and how to inflict the most civilian casualties". He had probably directed "one or more terror training camps".

In a tacit admission that terror camps have continued to operate on Afghan soil since the Taliban regime's was ousted more than five years ago, Belcher said Libi had been the subject of "especially close focus" by US intelligence since 2005, when American forces destroyed a militant training camp believed set up by Libi in the eastern province of Khost.

But he described Libi as "transient," moving where the Libyan thinks he can count on support.

North Waziristan is a lawless enclave in neighbouring Pakistan where last year the Pakistani government reached a peace deal with pro-Taliban elements.

Special reports
Attack on America
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Terrorism threat to UK

History of al-Qaida

07.09.2002: Inside the mind of Osama Bin Laden

Interactive guide
Tracing the September 11 attackers

Useful links
Al-Qaida profile - US department of state
FBI most wanted - Osama Bin Laden
Jane's International Security News

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