The killing of al-Qaeda's second-in-command is "the terrorist group's most significant setback since Osama bin Laden was killed."
By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 07/06/12
Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan-born top al Qaeda leader, was killed in Pakistan earlier this week. [Reuters]
The death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda's second-in-command killed by a US drone strike this week in Pakistan, is a debilitating loss to the terrorist organisation, analysts in the Balkans and Turkey said.
"This is not only a sharp blow on al-Qaeda itself, but also a clear message to all the terrorists in our region, especially their leaders that, no matter how well prepared and dangerous they are, there is no impunity for them anymore and [they] can't kill innocent people and hide, or escape in this globalising world," Kamer Kasim, al-Qaeda analyst at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organisation, told SETimes.
Al-Libi, 49-year-old Libyan native, was in charge of al-Qaeda's operations at the highest levels and the group's point man for maintaining connections with militant affiliates around the world.
While al-Libi was a well-regarded figure among the jihadist circles, his prominence rose especially after he escaped from the NATO-led detention centre at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2005.
"This death is the terrorist group's most significant setback since Osama bin Laden was killed last year, even at some point, more important," said Serhat Erkmen, Ahi Evran University assistant professor, who has been conducting research on al-Qaeda since 1999.
Igor Tabak, Croatia-based national security analyst and former expert member of parliament's Defence Committee, said al-Libi's death diminishes the organisation in general, as by "taking out experienced and strong leaders, they lose parts of their strike-potential, but also are forced to recruit, to put faith in new and untried people."
"That raises the chance of failure, but also for a successful infiltration by the various counter-terrorism authorities," he said.
Erkmen said that while bin Laden remained a founder and ideological leader of the terror organisation, al-Libi sat on the governing council and led practical operations and played "a significant moral role, like a public face of terror, and also a planner of new strikes against the Western countries."
Al-Libi's last mission was reportedly establishing a militant Islamist group's presence in Libya.
"If anyone doubts that the death of al-Qaeda leaders weakens the terrorists and has major effect on the group's ability to carry out attacks, this is a completely naive approach," Erkmen told SETimes. "Of course, the terrorists can always create new leaders; but there is no one now who even comes close in terms of replacing the figure that al-Qaeda has just lost."
Kenan Erturk, head of the Terrorism Research Centre at the 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Istanbul-based think-tank, said that in addition to the US and its allies, Turkey has been targeted by al-Qaeda because of its NATO membership.
Al-Qaeda has been behind several high-profile attacks in Turkey, including the bombing of the HSBC building, two synagogues, and an attack on the British Consulate in Istanbul in 2003, killing 57 people and wounding hundreds.
In the meanwhile, Erturk said, the threat in the region remains, as terrorists are still able to operate "from Syria to Europe."
"Unfortunately, our allies, from West to East failed to create a whole international platform against all the parts of terror arms," he told SETimes, adding that the recent disagreements around Syria "where the situation is getting more beneficial for terrorists," is one example.
For Ruhi Acikgoz, AKP MP and member of Turkey's Parliamentary National Defense Committee, the death of al-Qaeda's deputy-leader "will definitely bring great relief to people across the world while it also marks another challenge to think about how to stand together."
The recent operation closely follows the joint initiatives by the US, Europe and Turkey to combat terrorism, he told SETimes.