Abu Yahya al Libi, a Libyan-born top al-Qaida leader, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan earlier this week, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

U.S. officials said that Abu Yahya had recently been considered by U.S. counter-terrorism experts as the No. 2 in the core al-Qaida group led by Ayman al Zawahiri.

Zawahiri has headed the group since al-Qaida's founder, Osama bin Laden, was killed last year in a U.S. commando raid on his hideout in Pakistan.

A U.S. official said that Abu Yahya "was among al Qaeda's most experienced and versatile leaders" and that he "played a critical role in the group's planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts."