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[FoxNews.com]

Published June 04, 2012 – UPDATE: June 05, 2012

BREAKING:  Abu Yahya Al-Libi, considered a ‘rock star’ in the jihadist world, is killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, as officials say it will be hard for Al Qaeda to replace one of its most experienced and versatile leaders.

This file image from video and provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, shows Abu Yahia al-Libi. (AP/SITE INTEL GROUP)

Abu Yahya Al-Libi is a rock star in the jihadist world. With his videos and lectures going viral on the Web, he is Al Qaeda’s Mr. YouTube.

On Monday, the top Al Qaeda operative reportedly was the intended target of the latest U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, strikes that have been increasingly unpopular among Pakistanis but successful in recent years at taking out terrorist leaders.

The latest strike reportedly killed eight militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan. U.S. and Pakistani government sources told Reuters that Al-Libi was the intended target, but they could not confirm whether he had been hit.

It was the third strike in three days in Pakistan, with a Taliban leader killed in the first strike. And it was said to be the eighth strike in the last two weeks.

The target zone, Mir Ali, is described by sources as a terrorist haven that is a “crossroads” for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the latest strike, according to Pakistani officials, is believed to have killed foreign fighters — code for Arab members of Al Qaeda or Western recruits.

As for Al-Libi, he made his name in July 2005 when he escaped from this high security U.S. prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, along with three other Al Qaeda members. In keeping with his reputation, Al-Libi made a 54-minute video documenting his capture by the Pakistanis, his handover to U.S. authorities and escape from the prison.

Al-Libi is known as a preacher and scholar who more recently took the second-in-command spot when Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri took charge of Al Qaeda after Usama bin Laden’s death. As Al Qaeda’s de facto general manager, al-Libi oversaw the group’s day-to-day operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas and managed outreach to Al Qaeda’s regional affiliates.

The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program had set a $1 million reward for information leading to the Libyan-born fugitive.

Despite the progress in taking out Al Qaeda leadership, the U.S. drone campaign had been in a holding pattern before the NATO summit in Chicago last month in an effort to mend fences. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was unable to reach a deal with the Pakistanis to re-open supply lines for NATO forces, the drone program resumed.

“This is one of the more prominent names” among the targets of drone strikes in Pakistan, which helps bolster the CIA’s push to continue the drone program despite the continued political resistance from Pakistan and collateral damage, added former CIA officer Paul Pillar.

FoxNews.com’s Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/06/04/no-2-al-qaeda-leader-reportedly-targeted-in-pakistan-as-drone-strikes-escalate/#ixzz1wszynFzc

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