( dpa ) - A senior al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed, a western official with knowledge of the situation said Thursday.
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 specializes in paramilitary activities along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
"It appears at this point that Abu Laith al-Libi is dead," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We do believe that he is dead."
It remained unclear whether al-Libi, considered by some in the US intelligence community to be the third ranking al-Qaeda operative, was killed by an apparent US missile strike in Pakistan's North Waziristan on Monday that left about a dozen suspected militants dead.
The official did not say when al-Libi died, only that it occurred "recently." Al-Libi is believed to be at least 40 years old and has frequently appeared in al-Qaeda videotapes.
The region is long believed to serve as a refuge for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Many terrorism experts suspect Osama bin Laden could also be hiding inside the lawless area.
The Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamist websites, said a banner appeared Thursday on an al-Qaeda affiliated site, al-Ekhaas, announcing al-Libi was killed on Monday.
The banner said al-Libi was the head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). According to SITE, al-Libi appeared in videos linked to al-Qaeda's media arm, al-Sahab. He appeared three times in 2007, including a November 3 video announcing LIFG was joining al- Qaeda.
A local official in North Waziristan said the missile likely came from Afghan soil and targeted a house of a local tribal leader. There was no official confirmation of the incident by the Pakistani national government.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally, has deployed more than 100,000 troops to contain the Islamic militants in the border region. Washington has recently pressed Pakistan to do more to eliminate Taliban hideouts and its forces have carried out occasional airstrikes in the area.