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Al-Libi’s death might de-link international militant groups, experts say
Al-Libi was considered key connection between Central Asian, European, Pakistani and Afghani militants
By Zahir Shah
PESHAWAR – The recent death of al-Qaeda’s No. 2 man is a significant blow to the world terror network, experts and analysts say, because Abu Yahya al-Libi brought together Central Asian, European, Pakistani and Afghan militants.
Al-Libi, who was killed June 4 in Mir Ali Tehsil of North Wasiristan, was the most sought-after militant after Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. His death severs one of the key links between al-Qaeda groups internationally, analysts say, but they fear militants might seek to avenge his loss.
His international links were evident even as he was killed. Some 15 militants died with him, including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members and foreign militants, Dawn News reported June 5.
“Al-Libi was a bridge and a strong link, connecting Central Asian, Europeans, Arabs, Afghans and more predominantly the Pakistani groups like Hafiz Gul-Bahdar, Mullah Nazir and many other al-Qaeda affiliates and was revered world over for his wisdom and planning capabilities to run the network,” Director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies Amir Rana said.
“If he is really dead as confirmed by the International Coalition, it would paralyze the network operations for a very long time,” Rana told Central Asia Online.
He said however, there could be fallout from local al-Qaeda supporters and splinter affiliates, likely in the form of attacks on Pakistani security forces in tribal areas, especially in North Waziristan. Al-Qaeda and Afghan terror networks might also vent their anger by attacking coalition forces, he said.
Two bombings in Pakistan June 7-8 could be signs of such retaliation.
“No doubt Abu Yayha al-Libi was very crucial for al-Qaeda and is a great loss for the network, which is already tattered to a larger extent because of the (aerial) strikes and Pakistani security forces operations across tribal areas,” Dr. A. Z. Hilali, chairman of the political science department at Peshawar University.
Al-Libi, an Islamic scholar from Libya, appeared in most of al-Qaeda’s videos on the internet. He waged a media campaign urging attacks on Western targets and was considered the public face of al-Qaeda and a key pillar of the network.
Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and al-Libi have long been viewed as the three key al-Qaeda leaders, and with two of them dead, Hilali estimated that the network has lost about 70% of its effectiveness.
Hilali said that while this won’t be a deathblow for al-Qaeda, al-Libi’s death is significant loss for the organisation’s command-and-control structure, which is a major success against the group.
But the exact effect on al-Qaeda’s structure is hard to predict, Hilali said. In a typical hierarchy, second-tier personnel often move up when top leadership spots become vacant - and there has been a lot of turnover within the militant network during the global war on terror.
“I would like to make a point that al-Qaeda’s real structure had always been a point of debate and very often we are confused about who is who, but yes it’s a fact that when the top leader had died, their lower tier which usually comes up had issues of capabilities to control the network’s affairs which had affected its operation in the past as well,” he said.
Documents seized from bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, and released last month show the late al-Qaeda leader was concerned with the readiness of lower-tier leaders to assume top-leadership posts.
Pakistani security forces had always been instrumental in rooting out dens of foreign militants in the tribal areas and the recent killing of Central Asian militants in Kurram is proof of it, and military operations in the tribal areas have denied them space, Frontier Corps media spokesperson Maj. Fazl, told Central Asia Online.
“The al-Qaeda linked Azri militant Aslanvo Zeur’s killing along with many other foreigners has shown that the security forces are going all out against the local as well as the foreign militants,” he said. “Needless to mention the list, the peace in the tribal areas apart from some pockets is ... a feather in Pakistani security forces cap.”
Al-Libi escaped from an Afghan Prison in July 2005, and survived many attempts to kill him in the tribal areas. But he ran out of luck when he was killed in a June 4 aerial strike in Heshokhel village of Mir Ali Tehsil.