Al-Qa'ida commander reported dead in Pakistan

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The Independent Online

One of al-Qa'ida's most senior commanders in Afghanistan and a key liaison with Taliban, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed in Pakistan, a US official has confirmed.

Reports of his death had been carried on an Islamist website, which said: "We congratulate the Islamic nation for the martyrdom of the sheik, the lion, Abu Laith al-Libi."

The strike was carried out using a Predator unmanned drone against a target in north Waziristan, the official told the Associated Press. The town is known to have links to militants who fled to Pakistan's tribal regions after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

Officials were reported as saying that a compound was hit on Monday or Tuesday. Local reports said officials in the area had claimed "foreigners" were targeted in the attack.

The Lybian-born al-Libi has appeared in a number of al-Qa'ida video messages, including one alongside the terrorist organisation's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, in November. The US believes al-Libi – meaning "the Lybian" in Arabic – was behind the bombing in February 2007 of the US base at Bagram during a visit by the Vice-President Dick Cheney, which killed 23 people. The militant was listed as one of the 12 most wanted men with a $200,000 reward on his head.

Pakistani intelligence officials were reported as confirming al-Libi was based in the area until 2003 when he returned to Afghanistan to lead al-Qa'ida operations on both sides of the border.

Pakistan complained to the US two years ago after a similar strike, reportedly aimed at Zawahri, killed 18 civilians.

The Washington-based Site Institute which monitors militant websites said it believed "the announcement of his death has been confirmed to the [website] forum administrators."

An official told AP about 12 people were killed, including Taliban members.