Said al Shihri, from the second edition of Inspire, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s propaganda magazine, which was obtained by The Long War Journal.
Contradicting previous media reports, US intelligence officials and an Arab diplomat have told The Long War Journal that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s deputy leader is not thought to have been killed in an explosion while assembling a bomb in Yemen.
Last week, Said al Shihri, AQAP’s deputy emir and a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, was reported to have been “killed in a bomb explosion while he was preparing it to be used against Yemeni and foreign targets,” according to The Yemen Post. Other Middle Eastern news outlets also had reported that Shihri was killed while assembling a bomb in Abyan province. Five other AQAP operatives are rumored to have been wounded in the explosion.
An Arab diplomat, who requested he remain anonymous, recently told The Long War Journal that there is no evidence that Shihri was killed. The report of Shihri’s death was based on a phone call from senior AQAP commander Fahd Quso to his brother, who serves as a military officer in Bahrain, the Arab diplomat said. The diplomat said the call to Quso’s brother is believed to have been part of a deception operation to confuse Western and Middle Eastern intelligence services.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal also said that there is no evidence that Shihiri was killed.
“Quso’s call aside, there is no chatter among AQAP indicating that he [Shihri] has been killed,” a US intelligence official said.
AQAP has not released a martyrdom statement announcing his death. And the current edition of Sada al Malahem Magazine, an AQAP product released on the Internet, does not mention Shihri’s death; this latest edition was published on Feb. 15.
AQAP also has not notified Shihri’s father of the death of his son. In an interview with Sanaa Al-Sahwah.net, the father denied receiving notice of his son’s death, and denounced the son’s actions.
“I did not receive any news on Said’s death,” the father said. “I hope the news on his death and the injury of his outlawed associates and those who deviated from the path of religion is true, [and I hope] that no innocent people were harmed. Whoever brings the good news to me shall be rewarded. He has no place in my heart anymore, and he represents no one but himself. I disown him and disavow his acts.”
Saudi and Yemeni officials also denied that Shihri was killed. Brigadier General Abd al Razaq al Maruni, the security director of Abyan province, where Shihri was reported killed, said there is no evidence that the AQAP leader died in an explosion.
In the past, the Yemeni government has erroneously reported the deaths of top AQAP leaders, including Shihri. Among those reported killed who later turned up alive are Nasir al Wuhayshi, AQAP’s emir; Qasim al Raymi, AQAP’s military commander; Fahd al Quso, a senior military leader; and Anwar al Awlaki, a US citizen who serves as a top recruiter and ideologue.
For more information on Said al Shihri, see LWJ report, Return to Jihad.