2 AQAP commanders reported killed in Shabwa drone strike

hardaba.jpgAdel Hardaba, an AQAP leader reported killed yesterday. Source: Yemen Forum.

Following the US drone strike that took place on Sept. 25, local reports from Shabwa province suggest that two prominent leaders in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been killed. [See LWJ report: US launches second US drone strike in Shabwa in 2 weeks.]

The two AQAP commanders thought killed in Thursday’s strike were identified as Adel Hardaba and Muhader Ahmad Muhader by both Arabic press reports and Twitter accounts affiliated with AQAP. A formal AQAP statement regarding the deaths has yet to be released.

According to media reports, Adel Hardaba, who hails from Lahj, was an AQAP commander in the Lawdar region of Abyan in southern Yemen, located close to the border of Baydha province. Hardaba has a long history of fighting for AQAP in the Lawdar region. Reports from August 2010 claim that he was arrested following clashes between Islamist militants and Yemeni forces in Lawdar.

Hardaba was reportedly involved in intense fighting around the city of Lawdar in April 2012 during which AQAP briefly controlled the city before a Yemeni military push to dislodge the militants. Following his brief arrest by the Yemeni Popular Committees during the course of fighting for Lawdar in April 2012, Hardaba went into hiding and disappeared.

This is not the first report of Hardaba’s death as a result of a drone strike. Local Yemeni media had reported that Hardaba was killed in a US drone strike on August 10, 2013.

The second AQAP member reported killed in yesterday’s drone strike, Muhader Ahmad Muhader, is believed to hail from Lahj province’s Tha’alab region and served as a local AQAP commander in Lahj. Local sources told the Yemeni news outlet Aden al-Ghad that Muhader was “accused by the security authorities of being one of the most prominent leaders belonging to Ansar al Shariah that has carried out widespread assassination operations in Lahj that have included security officials and [private] citizens.” Ansar al Shariah is AQAP’s political front in Yemen.

Little is known about Muhader from the Arabic press, except that he was considered one of AQAP’s “rehabilitated” members as recently as last year. In March 2013, Muhader met with the governor of Lahj province, Ahmad Abdullah al Majidi, who urged Muhader to start “a new, white page” in his life. At that meeting, Muhader reportedly ensured the governor that he would be trustworthy and would “be among those rehabilitated that will participate in pursuing and disseminating the principles of moderation and staying away from extremism and terrorism.” The same report mentioned that Muhader was a member of AQAP’s “advocacy committee.”

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