AQAP confirms deaths of 2 commanders in US airstrike


AQAP operatives Ali Abdullah Naji al Harithi (left) and Ammar Abadah Nasser al Wa’eli (right), who were killed in a US military airstrike on June 3, 2011. Images from Inspire.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula confirmed that longtime Yemeni jihadists Ali Abdullah Naji al Harithi and Ammar Abadah Nasser al Wa’eli were killed in the June 3 airstrike in the city of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan.

The announcement was made in the latest edition of Inspire, AQAP’s English-language magazine, which is run by Samir Khan, an American citizen. The June 3 airstrike was carried out by the US military.

Harithi’s death was first reported on June 8 by The New York Times. The death of Wa’eli was first reported by, which claimed he and several other fighters, including Ali Saleh Farhan, were killed during fighting with Yemeni troops in Zinjibar. Inspire also issued a martyrdom statement for Farhan, who was killed while fighting Yemeni forces in Zinjibar.

Harithi, who is described by Inspire as a “veteran lion” and a “commander in the army of Aden-Abyan,” led Yemeni fighters against US forces in Iraq. He entered Iraq in 2003 and fought alongside Abu Musab al Zarqawi. After more than a year of fighting, Harithi and other Yemeni and Saudi fighters left Iraq for Yemen and were arrested by the government. Harithi and 18 members of the so-called Zarqawi cell were put on trial in 2006 for fighting in Iraq but were acquitted as a judge ruled that they did not violate Yemeni or Islamic law.

“This does not violate (Yemeni) law. Islamic sharia law permits jihad against occupiers,” the chief judge said, according to The Washington Post.

At the time of his death, Harithi was described by Yemen’s state-run television as “one of the most dangerous al Qaeda commanders in Shabwa province,” according to CNN.

Wa’eli was a longtime jihadist whose father was linked to slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He “started out on the path of jihad very early on in his life,” his martyrdom statement at Inspire said. “His father was a leader of the mujahideen in Yemen who was appointed by Shaykh Usama to open a training camp in the area of Saada.”

Wa’eli’s father likely opened the al Qaeda camp in the Abu Jabara Valley. The Abu Jabara camp is known to churn out fighters who are used to battle the Shia Houthi rebels in the Yemeni north. Hammam Qahtani, a senior Saudi AQAP propagandist who founded the terror group’s media arm and was slain in fighting in Yemen sometime in 2010, trained at this camp.

Wa’eli “spent his early years” at the Abu Jabara camp, then he “traveled to Afghanistan as a young boy and spent years fighting and training with his brothers,” the AQAP statement claimed.

In February 2002, the FBI placed Wa’eli on a list of wanted al Qaeda operatives who were thought to be plotting attacks against US, Western, and Yemeni targets inside Yemen. In January 2010, the Yemeni government claimed that Waeli was among five senior AQAP leaders, including Qasim al Raymi, the terror group’s top military commander, who were killed in an airstrike. But Waeli, Raymi, and the others were not killed in the attack. Waeli was described as “an important arms dealer for al Qaeda,” according to a report in The New York Times.

The US is thought to have carried out at least nine air and missile strikes inside Yemen since December 2009. Three of those strikes have taken place since the beginning of May. The US is said to be taking advantage of the security vacuum in Yemen to step up attacks against AQAP’s top leaders and its network, which have plotted and executed attacks against the West.

For the past several months, Yemeni security forces have been battling AQAP and allied Islamist groups for control of the south. AQAP is known to have openly taken control of areas in Abyan, Shabwah, Hadramawt, Marib, and Lahj since the onset of large anti-government protests in March.

For more information on AQAP and its front group Ansar al Sharia’s war against the Yemeni government, and US airstrikes in Yemen, see LWJ report, US airstrike kills 6 al Qaeda fighters in Yemen: report.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • David Verbryke says:

    Honestly, Mr Roggio, I do not know any type of reporting that you are capable of. It is a pleasure that you are on the US’s side. Finally, with the increasing body bags of al-Qa’ida, we can say, we are taking the war to them.

  • Jeff says:

    I think its important to emphasize just how sucessful the drone campaign has been, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere. From everything I have read, the US drone campaign is unprecedented in the history of warfare in terms of bad guys killed and civilian deaths minimized. To be able to strike a carload of terrorists and kill or injured very few or possibly no innocent civilians is invaluable. In addition, most of what I read in the “mainstream” media is critical of the drone strikes without stressing how sucessful it has been.

  • Zeissa says:

    Start sending missiles into Islamabad.

  • Zeissa says:

    As for political consequences… America will lose its supremacy to China someday because of its weakness. To let your enemies expect you to be unreasonably stupid… that is the flaw of the West ever since WWI and II.

  • Abu Samuel says:

    Sorry Jeff but while the deaths of these two vetran jihadi’s is weclome the fact remains that AQAP will have little if any trouble replacing them.
    What should be painfully obvious is that after years of using drone’s in Yemen in an attempt to degrade AQAP, the organisation is continuing to grow in strength and capability.
    Until there is sufficient will from the Yemeni Government to do what it takes to tackle AQAP, instead of focusing on the enrichment of regime leaders, AQAP will continue to grow as a threat.

  • kalpesh says:

    Please remember something, just because these commanders will be replaced easily or with more difficulty is no excuse for shutting down drone campaign. Consider this, our bodies commit murders of 100,000,00 bacteria and viruses ever minute. Think about it if our immune system shuts down, get the picture—AIDS. If we do not kill them, they will multiply like parasites. We need to keep killing them as it keeps them in check, like snakes kill rats, if they do not, they will wipe out crops. Drones are very good at this. Significantly lower cost and risk. About “civilian deaths”, why nobody asks the bad guys why do they surround themselves with women and children?? Pessimism is not going to work this time around. This is a long fight. It is good drones are operating in Al Qaida’s heartland, better than fighting them near our homes. Efforts should be on more covert campaigns, not less. This is a long fight. The enemy wants to fight asymmetrically, so be it. Do not try to judge yourselves, just finish them off. These guys will never be won over as they think they are on a mission from god. Shudder at the prospect of living under them.


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