Top Qaeda Afghanistan operative Libi killed: Web

DUBAI (Reuters) - A leading al Qaeda member in Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed, a Web site often used by the group and other Islamists said on Thursday.

A banner on the site said Libi had fallen as a martyr, without giving further details.

It was not immediately clear if Libi’s death was linked to a suspected U.S. missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region this week.

The attack had targeted second or third tier al Qaeda leaders, according to residents in the tribal area.

Tribesmen in the area had said a deputy of Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader, had been staying there and was among the dead, according to an intelligence official.

Libi, a Libyan, appeared in a video issued in November with al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri to announce that a Libyan Islamist group had joined the militant organization.

Islamists Web sites have carried messages from Libi, including one in May in which he said al Qaeda in Afghanistan was willing to exchange prisoners with Britain and other Western countries.

Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Michael Winfrey