AQAP deputy emir denies reports of his death in US drone strike
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.
Said al Shihri, a former Guantanamo detainee and the current deputy emir of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, issued a statement denying the reports of his death that emerged in the media last month. Shihri called the reports "a rumor to cover the killing of the innocent, unarmed Muslims in Yemen" that was propagated by the Yemeni government after civilians were killed in a drone strike.
Shihri's statement, which was released in the form of an audiotape on jihadist Internet forums on Oct. 20, was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
In the audiotape Shihri admonished the "hired media in the Muslim countries" for failing to "use your tools to support Islam and its people."
"The news that was reported about my killing in the Arabian Peninsula is a rumor to cover the killing of the innocent, unarmed Muslims in Yemen, who were killed by American drones in the east and west," Shihri said, according to SITE. "When Muslims rose against the killing of the weak in Hadramout and Al Baydah from among children and women, they spread news about my killing in order to cover their crimes against our Muslim people. This is the way of the agent governments with their masters."
Thirteen civilians were reportedly killed in a US drone strike in Baydah province on Sept. 2. On Sept. 10, the Yemeni military claimed that al Shihri was killed in a military operation in Hadramout province; that attack was known to have been launched by the unmanned, US-operated Predators or the more heavily armed Reapers, however.
Shihri said that "the Yemeni government didn't stop claiming responsibility for the killing of the innocent Muslims in Al Baydah on behalf of America, and when it saw that the people weren't tricked by this lie, they brought in another lie in order to hide the issue, which is the killing of Said al Shihri, as if America's killing of the Mujahedeen is victory for Islam and Muslims."
Al Shihri has been reported killed or captured in the past. Most recently, in February 2011, he was rumored to have been killed while working with explosives. In January 2010, Yemeni officials claimed that al Shihri was captured. And in December 2009, al Shihri was said to have been killed by a US cruise missile attack.
Recent drone strike kills senior AQAP leader
While al Shihri has eluded the drones for now, another senior AQAP leader was killed in a recent strike. A Yemeni journalist close to the Yemeni terror group reported that Sheikh Abu Zubeir 'Adil al'Abab, the sharia official who was described as AQAP's fourth-most important leader, was killed in a drone strike on Oct. 4.
Al'Abab is the fifth senior AQAP leader or operative killed in Yemen in a drone strike so far in 2012. Also killed this year are Khaled Batis, a wanted AQAP operative who is said to have been the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg; Fahd al Quso, AQAP's external operations chief, who was involved in numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole; Mohammed Saeed al Umda (a.k.a. Ghareeb al Taizi), who served as a member of Osama bin Laden's bodyguard in Afghanistan before returning to Yemen, and was involved in the attack on the Limburg; and Abdul Mun'im Salim al Fatahani, who was involved in the USS Cole and Limburg suicide attacks.
Background on Said al Shihri
Shihri is a Saudi citizen who was detained by the US in Afghanistan in 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 for his connections to al Qaeda. He had served as an "al Qaeda travel facilitator" in Mashad, Iran, where he would help al Qaeda operatives enter Afghanistan. He was also connected to the Saudi 'charity' al Wafa, which has been designated under Executive Order 13224 as a terrorist organization and is briefly mentioned in the 9/11 Commission's report as an al Qaeda front.
In November 2007, Shihri was released from Guantanamo and placed into Saudi custody, where he then entered a government-run rehabilitation program for former jihadists. Less than a year later, in September 2008, Shihri played a direct role in al Qaeda's attack on the American embassy in Sana'a, Yemen's capital. That attack killed 10 civilians, along with six terrorists.
In February 2009, when Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda in Yemen merged to form Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Shihri was named as deputy to AQAP emir Nasir al Wuhayshi.
For more information on Said al Shihri, see LWJ report, Return to Jihad.