A senior Al Qaeda leader who ran operations in Afghanistan and was an expert in guerrilla warfare, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed in a "serious blow" to the terrorist network, a western official said.
The official would not divulge the circumstances surrounding the death of al-Libi, but described him as a top Al Qaeda operative of Libyan descent who specialised in paramilitary activities along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
"It appears at this point that Abu Laith al-Libi is dead. At least for the near term his death deals a serious blow to Al Qaeda's operational planning in the region," the official said on condition of anonymity.
It remained unclear whether al-Libi, considered by some in the US intelligence community to be the third ranking Al Qaeda operative and a key Osama bin Laden lieutenant, was killed by an apparent US missile strike in Pakistan's North Waziristan district Monday. A dozen suspected militants died in the attack.
The US has in the past used armed unmanned airplanes called Predators to target militants along the border and sometimes inside Pakistan, said John Pike, an expert at Globalsecurity.org.
"Special forces and CIA typically use armed predators because they can quickly respond to actionable intelligence," he said. "They can track people, and when the time is right to hit them, they hit them."
The western official said al-Libi "recently" died but did not provide a date.