A wanted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader who was involved in last year’s plot that forced the US to close more than a dozen diplomatic facilities across the world has been been killed in the yesterday’s US drone strike in central Yemen. AQAP’s emir for the central province of Baydah, where the jihadist group is battling encroaching Houthi rebels, was also killed in the same airstrike.
AQAP confirmed the deaths of Shawki Ali Ahmed al Badani and Nabil al Dhahab in an official statement released by by the group’s media arm. The statement was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.
AQAP said that Badani and Nabil were killed “in an American Crusader bombardment from a drone on the evening of Monday, 10 Muharram 1436H, 3 November 2014,” according to SITE. “The two knights, and with them, a group of their mujahideen brothers, were dismounted by three Crusader bombardments.”
The US launched a drone strike yesterday in Radaa in Baydah province that hit multiple targets. At least 20 AQAP operatives were reported to have been killed. Initial reports indicated that two AQAP bombmakers, known as Ayyash al Eid and Ahmad Jarallah, were killed. Their deaths have not been confirmed. [See LWJ report, US drone strike kills 20 AQAP fighters in Yemen.]
The strike took place as AQAP has fought Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels who took control of the capital of Sana’a in mid-September and have since advanced into western and central Yemen. AQAP has fought pitched battles against the Houthis in Baydah; hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in the fighting. AQAP has capitalized on the Houthi advance to rally Sunnis to fight on their side.
The jihadist group accused the US of conspiring with Shia Houthi rebels to kill Badani and Nabil.
“The rockets of the American drones that killed the martyrs, Nabil al Dhahab and Shawqi al Badani, and their friend, raised the curtain on the truth of the American-Houthi enmity, which cannot be promoted or given but to the foolish and stupid; this bogus enmity in which the Houthis chew with the slogan of “Death to America, Death to Israel”, it was smashed against the sound of American rockets,” the statement said. “It [the US] fights with its spying and bombarding in one trench with the Houthis, side by side, against the Muslims in Yemen.”
AQAP also said that the US is also cooperating with Shiites in Iraq who are supported by Iran to “repeat the Iraqi scene exactly, where the Crusaders and Rafidha [a derogatory term for Shiites] piled on top of them to kill, capture, and violate the honor of the Muslims in the Land of Two Rivers [Iraq].”
Targeted in the past
Badani has been targeted by US drones in Yemen at least once in the past year, with disastrous results. On Dec. 12, 2013, US drones attempted to killed Badani but accidentally killed 15 civilians as they traveled in a wedding party in Radaa in the central province of Baydah.
Nabil, who was the brother-in-law of Anwar al Awlaki, has also been targeted by the US over the past several years. In May 2012, Nabil and his brother Kaid were in the crosshairs of US drones, but survived the strike. Kaid served as the emir for Baydah before he was killed in August 2013; Nabil took his place as leader of the province.
Badani wanted for embassies plot
Badani is one of the most wanted AQAP operatives in Yemen. In July, the US Department of State added him to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for his role in al Qaeda’s network and involvement in terrorist plots in Yemen and throughout the world.
Badani “played a key role in a plan for a major attack in summer 2013 that led the United States to close 19 diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa,” State said in its designation. [See LWJ report, US adds AQAP leader involved in embassy plot to terrorist list.]
The diplomatic facilities were closed after American officials learned that al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri had communicated, via a complex Internet-based system, with more than 20 al Qaeda operatives around the world. The al Qaeda terrorists reportedly discussed a possible attack on a US embassy or consulate. During the communications, Zawahiri also made it known that he had appointed Nasir al Wuhayshi, the head of AQAP, as the new general manager of al Qaeda’s global operations. [See LWJ report, AQAP’s emir also serves as al Qaeda’s general manager.]
The US also linked Badani to a 2012 plot to attack the US Embassy in Sana’a as well as a suicide attack in the Yemeni capital May 2012 that killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers.
Badani has been described by the Yemeni government as one of “the most dangerous terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda.” In 2013, the Yemeni government offered a reward of $100,000 for information leading to his capture.