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Is Al Qaeda's second-in-command Al-Libi dead or alive?

June 11, 2012 15:15 IST

While Abu Yahya Al-Libi, the Al Qaeda's deputy leader was reportedly killed in an American drone strike on June 4, there are stories which say otherwise, reports Tahir Ali

Al-Libi's death was a big story both in the local and international media last week. The US had termed the yet-to-be confirmed death, of an 'inspirational' figure for the Al Qaeda, as a big achievement.

The target was so high-profile that Pakistan criticised the attack and termed the US drone strike as 'illegal' and an attack over its 'sovereignty', and went silent for a while.

Since May's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Summit in Chicago, it was the ninth missile strike by the Central Intelligence Agency-operated unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Earlier, reports said that a drone strike had killed eight terrorists including foreigners, but soon the toll reached 15. The following day, it was only suspected that Al-Libi was among the killed, but soon the White House confirmed his death, calling it a 'major blow' to the terror network.

After the news was confirmed by the US, analysts and media hawks went into a flurry over his death and the impact it would have over the Al Qaeda. But no one bothered to confirm it with sources from Waziristan or from the Taliban.

On Sunday, two websites -- Ansar and Alfidaa -- linked to the Al Qaeda announced that Al-Libi was alive and a new video featuring him would soon be aired.

'Soon, a video message by Sheikh Abu Yahya Al-Libi. May Allah protect him,' read the message posted by the Al Qaeda's Sahab media arm on both sites.

While no one will believe Al Qaeda's claims until a fresh video is released, there are many contradictions already aired by the media about the incident. Initially, reports said that 15 terrorists were killed in the strikes including some foreigners; followed by anoter report about al-Libi's killing.

On the day of the drone strike, this scribe received a text message from a tribal source: 'It is said that in today's strike Abu Yahya Al-Libi has been killed, while at another place when Shahbaz Taseer (the abducted son of slain Punjab Governor Salaman Taseer) has died in a roof collapse.'

The very next day another news report surfaced saying, 'Al-Libi was present in the area but survived the attack'. Then Taliban sources claimed 'Al-Libi's vehicle was present in the area of the attack, but someone else was in the car'.

Another report said, 'Al-Libi's driver has been killed, while he himself has survived the attack'.

According to information gathered from various sources in North Waziristan, a drone strike did take place on June 4, but clues point that the Al Qaeda's deputy leader was not killed.

Almost every media report said that 15 people had died in that particular attack, but according to reliable sources, only one person had died.

No particular vehicle was targetted, nor was there one present at the site of the incident. Normally, after a drone strike, reports from different sources are taken to determine the number of the dead.

There have been instances when a drone strike has killed a dozen terrorists, but the media only reported the number to be one or two. For tribal journalists, the only thing that matters is the actual drone strike -- the number of casualties does not matter.

Investigations show that on that particular occasion only one foreigner was killed, but his identity is still unknown.

Tribal journalists and other sources agreed upon one fact that the deceased was known as 'Shiekh Sahib', a term used for an Arab, but no one knows who he actually was.

When this scribe contacted a survivor of the targeted house through a source, all he got was, "He was just called Sheikh; we don't know anything else about him."
Tahir Ali in Islamabad