Said Ali al Shihri, former Guantánamo detainee and deputy leader of al Qaeda in Yemen. Photo from The SITE Institute.
The Yemen Observer is reporting that Said al Shihri, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s second in command, was captured after his car overturned at a police checkpoint in Shabwa province, an al Qaeda haven:
A car carrying members of al-Qaeda was turned over when attempted to bypass a newly established sudden checkpoint by the Yemeni security units today and resulted in the capture of Saeed al-Shihri, the second person in command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, security source told the Yemen Observer.
The car was going in a high speed and was carrying al-Shihri and other al-Qaeda militants and flipped over in the district of Sylan in Shabwa near the borders of Marib province. All the militants were captured.
Note that the source of the report is an anonymous intelligence official. The Yemeni government has not released a statement claiming Shihri has been captured.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has denied that Qasim al Raymi, the group’s military commander, and six other leaders were killed in last week’s strike. From Reuters:
“The Yemeni government has been making many false claims … against the Mujahideen leaders in the Arabian Peninsula,” al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said in a statement on an Islamist website used by the group.
“The latest of these claims is that it killed six of them between the provinces of al-Jawf and Saada. We assure our Muslim nation that none of the Mujahideen were killed in that strike, but some have suffered mild injuries,” it added.
The Yemeni government has a vested interest in showing it has the capacity to take down AQAP’s top leaders; the government is currently trolling for more than $4 billion in international aid. Shihri and Raymi are two of the top three leaders in the group. AQAP would like nothing more than to embarrass the Yemeni government. If Shihri is still free and Raymi is alive, expect to see them on a video shortly.
The Yemeni Interior Ministry officially said it captured Shihri after an accident in Shabwa province.