On Nov. 10, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement regarding the death of Turki al Asiri, also known as Marwan al Makki, who served as the local AQAP emir in Lahj province in southern Yemen. Al Asiri was reported to have been killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces on Nov. 6. The AQAP statement provides both details about the circumstances of Asiri’s death and biographical information about the slain AQAP emir.
Circumstances of death
The AQAP statement claims that at 3:00 a.m. on Nov. 7, a Yemeni counterterrorism unit accompanied by “people speaking Arabic in a foreign language” attacked Turki al Asiri’s residence in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. The statement suggested that the Yemeni unit used an explosive to gain entry to the residence before storming in and clashing with al Asiri for several minutes prior to his being killed.
The firefight inside al Asiri’s house apparently woke up his neighbors, who watched from their windows as the Yemeni forces carried several corpses outside of the house before leaving the scene. About three hours later, additional Yemeni forces allegedly arrived and “stole” the personal belongings of those who lived in the house, including such items as “women’s gold.”
The statement additionally notes that AQAP’s retelling of Asiri’s death is at odds with the official narrative relayed by the media. According to the reports promulgated by the Yemeni Ministry of Defence, Asiri was killed by security forces at a checkpoint in the Tabin region of Lahj province.
Turki al Asiri’s biography
A Saudi Arabian national, al Asiri traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, where he received instruction at “mujahideen training camps.” Al Asiri fought against the Americans following the US invasion of Afghanistan and even participated in the battles at Tora Bora alongside Osama bin Laden. Al Asiri fled to Pakistan like many al Qaeda operatives, and he was held captive by the Pakistani regime for a time before being handed over to the Americans. According to his biography in the AQAP statement, the US detained al Asiri in Kandahar before transferring him to “the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba where he remained for nearly six years.” The US then reportedly handed al Asiri to Saudi Arabia, where he was detained for a period before being “temporarily” released.
In 2008, al Asiri made his way to Yemen accompanied by Sa’id al Shihri, who would soon become AQAP’s deputy, and quickly joined the ranks of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Due to his terrorist activities, Saudi Arabia listed al Asiri among the country’s 85 most wanted individuals. Al Asiri eventually became AQAP’s emir for Lahj province, and his biography praises him for not leaving this post until he was martyred.
The AQAP biography describes al Asiri as a gentle and humble man who reserved his sternness and gravity for “the enemies of Allah, the infidels.” He is reported to have told his American jailers, “I am a mujahid from al Qaeda, I have fought you and will continue to fight you, with Allah’s permission.” He was known to carry out and orchestrate a variety of attacks in Lahj province, including raids, assassinations, and bombing attacks. His biography concludes by saying, “he ended his life the way he lived it – fighting valiantly and not surrendering himself to his enemies.”