AQAP deputy emir Said al Shihri is dead: Yemeni government


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.

The Yemeni government claimed today that the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Said al Shihri has died “after succumbing to wounds received in a counter terrorism operation” late last year. A prominent jihadist and the Middle Eastern press have also recently claimed that al Shihri is dead.

“The Supreme National Security Committee of the Republic of Yemen announced today the death of Sa’id al Shihri, known also by the pseudonym ‘Abu Sufyan Alazdi’, the cofounder and second-in-command (Deputy Emir) of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), after succumbing to wounds received in a counter terrorism operation in the governorate of Saadah on the 28th of November, 2012,” read a statement that was translated by the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, DC.

The Yemeni government indicated that al Shihri was killed in a joint operation with the US, which is known to operate drones that target AQAP leaders and fighters in Yemen.

“The security committee highlighted Yemen’s cooperation with the international community in the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism,” the statement continued. “Al Shihri who has survived multiple operations in the past, was buried in undisclosed location inside Yemen by al Qaeda linked militants.”

The statement by the Yemeni government was issued just one day after rumors of Shihri’s death appeared in Middle Eastern newspapers. Additionally, a jihadist linked to AQAP announced that the deputy AQAP emir is indeed dead. [See Threat Matrix report, AQAP deputy emir Said al Shihri likely killed in US drone strike.]

According to Al Arabiya, al Shihri’s family “said he was severely injured after a joint Yemeni-U.S. operation targeting al-Qaeda members in Yemen in the second week of December, 2012.”

“After falling into a coma, Shihri was later declared dead and was buried in Yemen,” the newspaper reported.

And two days ago, “prominent jihadist Abdullah bin Muhammad” released a statement announcing al Shihri’s death, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

“I send to the Ummah [Muslim community] news of the martyrdom of Sheikh Said al Shahri after a long journey in fighting the Zio-Crusader campaign,” bin Muhammad said. The jihadist has access to AQAP propaganda, SITE noted, as he “released missing audio from the AQAP video ‘Jihad of the Ummah’ that announced a bounty on American Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald M. Feierstein.”

The date of the operation in which al Shihri was wounded is unclear. The Yemeni government claimed he was wounded in an operation on Nov. 28, while family members said he was wounded in mid-December. No drone strikes were reported in Yemen between Nov. 8, 2012 and Dec. 23, 2012.

However the US is known to have conducted a strike in Saada on Oct. 28, 2012. In that strike, US drones targeted two compounds, killing four AQAP fighters, including two Saudis [see LWJ report, US drones kill 4 AQAP fighters in rare strike in northern Yemen].

AQAP has not released an official statement to announce the death of al Shihri.

Al Shihri has been reported killed or captured several times in the past. Most recently, On Sept. 10, 2012, the Yemeni military claimed that he was killed in a military operation. Al Shihri released a statement on Oct. 20, 2012 in which he denied the reports of his death. 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.

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.

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


  • DaGrise says:

    Good. One less murderous scumbag wagging his finger at the civilized world.

  • BigdaddyUSA says:

    So glad he had time to suffer!

  • Nolan says:

    I’m beginning to feel very hopeful about this one. I’m also very curious as to who they will name to replace Shehri as the Deputy Emir of the network. In my estimation it will be a Saudi and most likely a former Guantanamo Detainee. If you look at Wuhayshi’s merger announcement of January 2009, he was joined by Qasim al-Rimi and two former Guantanamo detainees: Shehri and Mohamed Atiq al-Awfi al-Harbi. That’s two Yemenis and two Saudis. With Wuhayshi the leader, Shehri the deputy, Rimi the military chief, and Harbi a field commander. Of the 11 Saudi most wanted who were former Guantanamo detainees and known AQAP members, five remain at large: Turki al-Assiri, Mishal al-Shadokhi, Othman al-Ghamdi, Murtada al-Muqram and Ibrahim al-Rubaish. Of them Ghamdi and Rubaish are the most prominent. After Harbi surrendered, Ghamdi was promoted in propaganda videos to a position of “field commander.” Thus I believe he has the best shot of being named deputy. Wuhayshi needs another Saudi as deputy to maintain the balance of the Yemeni-Saudi merger. Rubaish is on the AQAP Shariah Committee and is the only prominent name remaining on it, with the assassinations of Abab and Awlaki. So, I believe he stays there. There is also the possibility of an individual named Ahmed Abdulaziz al-Jasser, who factors into the Saudis’ 2011 most wanted list. He seems to be an important AQAP operative and has led plots against the Saudis. Therefore, he may be a candidate for Deputy. There is also an outside chance for Ibrahim al-Assiri. I believe he will remain in his role as an explosives expert, but he may be promoted due to the large amount of attention he has received from the US. He is a relatively familiar figure. Yet I still say they will promote a former Guantanamo detainee, both for the symbolism of the move, the experience of the fighter and the ability such a person may have in galvanizing their men on the ground. Bill, who would your estimation be as to the next Deputy?

  • Hibeam says:

    Said al Shihri may be gone now but his eternal message “Change your ways or you will get toasted by a Hellfire Missile” lives on in the Ummah [Muslim community] .

  • Pathanoo says:

    I am so happy for Saeed Al Shihri. He finally got his wish to meet Allah. Now, hopefully he can get his 72 virgins and enjoy them if his body is not too damaged by the American Drones.
    I am sorry that we could not accommodate his wish to meet Allah earlier but then he only is to be blamed for the delay as he would avoid the Drones.
    Oh!! Well. Better late than never, yeh Brother Shihri.

  • mike merlo says:

    kinda like a Humpty Dumpty moment

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Nolan, Excellent post. My guess is Othman al Ghamdi as well, for all of the reasons you mentioned. I suspect AQAP will want to keep Asiri on the shelf and not potentially expose him by having him do propaganda.

  • Donald says:

    Shihri’s family was informed of his death via telephone by an AQAP member. Mr. Roggio has pointed out that family members are informed first of a high-ranking member’s death.
    It looks like the third time is the charm.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram