Yemeni and Saudi officials today announced to Arabic media sources the completion of DNA testing on the corpse of an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militant killed in a US drone strike on the night of April 20-21. The officials confirmed that the DNA testing revealed that the corpse was neither that of Nasir al Wuhayshi, AQAP’s emir and al Qaeda general manager, nor Ibrahim al Asiri, known as AQAP’s master bomb maker.
Following the US drone strike during the night of April 20-21 in Shabwa, after which Yemeni helicopters landed at the site, suspicions emerged as to whether Asiri or another prominent AQAP figure was killed. On April 23, a Saudi official told Arabic news sources that Yemen had transferred the corpse of an AQAP militant who was killed in the US drone strikes on April 20-21 to Saudi Arabia for DNA testing. The Saudi official said the slain militant was a Saudi believed to have held a prominent role in the terrorist organization.
Arabic media sources noted that Saudi Arabia obtained DNA samples of Asiri’s relatives following his involvement in the February 2009 assassination attempt targeting Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, the Deputy Minister of the Interior. Asiri had designed and assembled the bomb used by his brother, Abdullah, which detonated in his anal cavity and killed only him. Asiri was subsequently placed on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85 most-wanted terrorists in 2009 and was described by the Saudi government as an “expert in explosives and poison.” The US State Department added Asiri to its list of specially designated terrorists in March 2011.
In related news, Saudi Arabia arrested 62 accused terrorists today, 35 of whom had been previously released from custody. A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry said that the vast majority of those arrested were Saudis, with the exception of one Yemeni, one Palestinian, and one Pakistani. The Saudi official also expressed concern regarding the vast communications network operated by the terrorist cell, and claimed that its members had established contacts with terrorist cells in Syria, Yemen, and throughout Saudi Arabia.
The Interior Ministry spokesman said that those arrested had begun establishing a terrorist cell in Saudi Arabia by pledging allegiance (ba’yat) to an emir, building the organization’s infrastructure, and plotting attacks. He also said the group had shown great interest in the smuggling routes between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, particularly for smuggling women across the border. Saudi authorities seized a plant set up by the group for the production of advanced electronic circuitry used in detonation and wiretapping as well as materials used for forging official documents. The arrests also revealed the existence of another cell that was engaged in Internet fundraising for the purpose of financing the operations.