Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For U.S. terrorism experts, the death yesterday of Abu Yahya al-Libi is the hardest blow dealt to al Qaeda, thirteen months after the death of Osama bin Laden. The extremist fighter of Libyan origin - as his name reveals - was killed yesterday during a CIA drone raid in Pakistan's tribal area bordering Afghanistan. He was number two in line in the hierarchy of the international jihad, just behind the sheikh and Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri (60 years), but his influence and prestige exceeded his mere numerical classification. Al-Libi was much loved and respected by fighters and credited with possessing what analysts define as the "religious credentials", absent in other leaders, to lend an "inspirational" ideological message to conflict and global terrorism.
Jarret Brachman, an expert on terrorism at North Dakota State University, told AFP that "the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi is a devastating blow to the leadership of al Qaeda," so severe as to be defined as "irreparable damage". The researcher adds that there is no one within the international network of terror that has "combination" of key elements such as "academic credentials, personal charisma and the ability to direct and guide fighters at a regional and global level."
The terrorist, 49 years or so, first joined the terrorist movement in Libya. He studied the Koran and Islamic law in Mauritania, before moving to Afghanistan. He was a proponent of "religious orthodoxy and purity," but was also a skilled orator and an expert in computers and information technology, seen in the many video messages he released over the years. Captured in 2002 by Pakistan, he was imprisoned by the Americans in Bagram prison (north of Kabul), from which he escaped in 2005, an act which later earned him respect and admiration in the international terrorist movement.
The American drone attack, which led to his death, occurred early yesterday morning in Hassu Khel, a small village south of Mir Ali in North Waziristan tribal area along the border with Afghanistan and a stronghold of fighters and extremists . During the raid from 14 to 16 people died and this is considered the bloodiest in the area since November 2011.
The line of succession of al Qaeda is difficult to interpret, but in any case U.S. experts say it is a blow to the movement, because no second tier leader has his charisma and preparation. It should be added that al Qaeda is an international network consisting of many cells affiliated with each other, ranging from Pakistan to the Philippines and Indonesia, but that - often - they act in an autonomous and independent manner under the direction of a local leader.