WASHINGTON - Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi was the target of a US drone strike that killed 15 people in Pakistan's tribal belt on Monday, US media reported.
US officials confirmed to The New York Times that Al-Libi had been the target of the missile attack in North Waziristan, a Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold along the Afghan border, but could not say whether he had survived.
"People are looking very closely to see whether he's still alive," a US official told the New York Times.
"It'll take some time for people to gain a high level of confidence that he's dead. But he's number two in Al-Qaeda, and this would be a major blow."
A senior US official also told ABC News that Al-Libi had been the target of the attack, the third drone strike in three days and the deadliest this year.
"This would be a major blow to core Al-Qaeda -- removing the number two leader twice in less than a year," a senior US official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding he could not confirm if Al-Libi was dead or alive.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that Al-Libi had served as "general manager" for Al-Qaeda's main branch, overseeing its daily operations in Pakistani's tribal regions and managing links to affiliates around the world.
Al-Libi, a Libyan citizen believed to be in his late 40s, has been an influential Al-Qaeda commander. He became the international terror network's deputy leader after the August death of Atiyah abd al-Rahman, another Libyan national who was killed in a US missile strike in North Waziristan.
Al-Libi, who has a $1 million US bounty on his head, was falsely reported dead previously, after a December 2009 drone strike in South Waziristan.
A senior Pakistani security source in Peshawar told the Times that it "looks like he has been killed."
Pakistani officials said two missiles slammed into a compound in the village of Hesokhel, east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, before dawn.
A security official in Miranshah told AFP that the bodies of those killed could not be identified and that there were unconfirmed reports that foreigners were among the dead, a possible reference to Al-Qaeda fighters.