(WASHINGTON) — A new video surfaced online Tuesday featuring al Qaeda commander Abu Yahya al-Libi — the same terrorist who American officials declared dead last week — but the video doesn’t appear to reveal whether it was made before or after his reported death.
In the new footage, which was posted in jihadi forums with captions referring to al-Libi in honorific titles generally reserved for the living, al-Libi discusses the ongoing violence in Syria but makes no specific reference to any specific significant events there. He does not mention the Houla massacre of May 25, in which the United Nations says more than 100 people, nearly half of them children, were executed, allegedly by government militiamen. Syrian opposition groups and the government have been engaged in a bloody struggle for more than a year, since well before al-Libi’s reported death.
Al-Libi was declared dead by U.S. and Pakistani officials in June following a series of drone strikes in Pakistan. Other al Qaeda leaders have not confirmed or denied al-Libi’s death, and an analyst with the terrorist tracking group IntelCenter said that it is “not unknown for groups to release videos of key figures that were filmed prior to their death but had not yet been released.”
Before his death, the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program listed a $1 million reward for information leading to al-Libi’s capture. In 2010, the National Counter-Terrorism Center listed al-Libi as one of al Qaeda’s top commanders and he was described by one U.S. official last week as among al Qaeda’s “most experienced and versatile leaders.”
“There is no one who even comes close in terms of replacing the expertise [al Qaeda] has just lost,” the official said.
Al-Libi is among the highest-profile al Qaeda members to be killed by U.S. forces since a Navy SEAL raid killed top al Qaeda commander bin Laden in May 2011. He recently emerged as one of the most public faces of al Qaeda, appearing in several training and propaganda videos in the past two years. A letter from al-Libi chastising the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban was found among bin Laden’s documents captured during the U.S. raid.
U.S. intelligence officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this report.
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Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Barbara Starr, CNN