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Al-Qaida leader killed in drone strike allegedly linked to NYC terror plots


This still image from video obtained Oct. 18, 2011, courtesy of IntelCenter shows al-Qaida's Abu Yahya al-Libi making a statement on Algeria.

The al-Qaida leader killed in a weekend drone strike in Pakistan was linked to at least two terror plots that targeted New York City, security officials tell NBC 4 New York.

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Videos made by Abu Yahya al-Libi were used to recruit the terrorists who planned to be suicide bombers on city subways in the 2009 Zazi bomb plot. 

Officials also said al-Libi gave orders to terrorist Bryant Neal Vinas, who later scouted the Long Island Rail Road for a possible terror attack.


Al-Qaida leaders killed or captured (click to enlarge).

Al-Libi moved up to the No. 2 position in al-Qaida after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May. 

During this year’s subway bomb trial, admitted terrorist Najibullah Zazi testified that he and his fellow plotters attended a terror trainingcamp in Pakistan where Al-Libi’s videos were played to inspire them to carry out an attack. And Vinas testified at the same trial that he personally met with al-Libi before returning to the U.S. to scout possible targets.

According to the trial transcript, prosecutors asked Vinas about his travels to Lwara, Pakistan. 

"Whose command were you under at that point?” prosecutors asked.

Vinas responded, “Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi.”

Al-Libi played a role in making videos calling for attacks on U.S. targets, both overseas and domestic. Intelligence officials said he actively reached out to al-Qaida affiliates across the globe to encourage terror strikes. Inside Pakistan, security officials said he played a direct role in a suicide bombing that targeted the Danish embassy in Islamabad.

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Al-Libi had been in U.S. custody in Afghanistan but escaped from a prison at Bagram Air Base in 2005. That escape and his religious background made him popular among al-Qaida members.

Ayman al Zawahiri remains al-Qaida's top leader and other terror operatives like Adnan Shukrajuma, also linked to the Zazi subway plot, are believed to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

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