AQAP confirms death of senior leader

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Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an official branch of al Qaeda, has released a video eulogy for Nasir al Wuhayshi, the group’s most senior leader. Wuhayshi was killed in a US drone strike earlier this month. The eulogy is read by Khaled al Batarfi, an al Qaeda veteran who was freed from prison after AQAP overran the coastal city of Mukallah in early April.

Batarfi says that Wuhayshi was killed along with two others during an American raid. Qasim al Raymi, who co-founded AQAP in early 2009, has been selected as Wuhayshi’s successor. The US State Department added al Raymi to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists in May 2010, saying that he “played a key role in reviving the regional node” of al Qaeda in Yemen after he escaped from prison in 2006. Wuhayshi also took part in that prison break.

Al Raymi had served as AQAP’s top military commander prior to being named emir of the group.

Batarfi brags that AQAP was able to quickly assemble a meeting of its shura council members to select a new leader, even while fighting in the chaotic war being waged throughout Yemen.

Despite “being preoccupied fighting the Houthis” and “supporters” of the “deposed” government on “more than 11 fronts” throughout Yemen, Batarfi says, Allah “facilitated the gathering of the largest number of shura council members who have agreed” on Wuhayshi’s “worthy successor.” On behalf of AQAP, Batarfi says the group has pledged its allegiance to al Raymi, thereby recognizing his authority.

Batarfi heaps praise on Wuhayshi, describing the fallen AQAP leader as Osama bin Laden’s “close friend and secretary.” Wuhayshi served as bin Laden’s aide-de-camp prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Batarfi highlights Wuhayhi’s time in Afghanistan, saying Wuhayshi had been “commended” for the “adversity and hardship he endured in Tora Bora.” This is a reference to the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, when bin Laden and many al Qaeda leaders survived near death.

Wuhayshi “was a part of the first generation of fighters defying America in different parts of the world since the” 1990s, Batarfi says, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Batarfi claims that the US “will not endure” the war launched by al Qaeda, as the war “will come for your economy and destroy it.”

According to Batarfi, Wuhayshi “worked hard along” with others “to establish a strong leadership for jihad” in the Arabian Peninsula. Wuhayshi “helped to raise a generation of mujahideen.”

In addition to being AQAP’s co-founder and resurrecting the group from earlier defeats, Wuhayshi served as al Qaeda’s global general manager. Declassified documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal that the general manager has responsibilities ranging across al Qaeda’s global network. [See LWJ report, AQAP’s emir also serves as al Qaeda’s general manager.]

The bin Laden files also show that the general manager is assigned deputies. The Long War Journal previously identified another AQAP official, Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, as one of Wuhayshi’s deputy general managers. [See LWJ report, Osama bin Laden’s Files: Al Qaeda’s deputy general manager in Yemen.]

Al Ansi was killed in a US drone strike in April. Batarfi read the eulogy for al Ansi as well, describing him as a longtime subordinate to al Qaeda’s most senior leaders. On behalf of al Qaeda and its emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Ansi claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January.

The Long War Journal assesses that another deputy general manager to Wuhayshi was Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, who was also slain in a drone strike in late January.

Still another senior AQAP ideologue, an ex-Guantanamo detainee named Ibrahim Rubaish, perished in a drone strike in April.

Therefore, the drone strikes have eliminated key leaders throughout AQAP’s and al Qaeda’s global hierarchy. However, this hasn’t stopped the group from spreading its insurgency footprint throughout Yemen over the past year.

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

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  • Fred says:

    The Kurds also took Tel Abyad today. I like today a lot.

    Good riddance to this rat. Let’s hope this creates fallout and infighting throughout the Sahara.

  • Oberron says:

    We’ll run out of money long before they run out of leaders. The Saudis are proving incapable of preventing Houthi Raids into their Territory and nothing we do is improving the situation. In fact we are worsening it by trying to prop up failed governments and pissing the locals off to the point they are join Groups we don’t like because they are the only ones who aren’t corrupt.

    American Middle East Policy has failed, we can’t fix it, and it s time to pull the plug and let everyone of those governments reap what they sowed and wash our hands of it. Oil is not worth this. If China wants to blow its money there, let them.

  • Tom McCabe says:

    We tried that once in Afghanistan and got bit on 9/11. Just because you want to leave the dirtbags alone doesn’t mean the dirtbags will return the favor.

  • JT says:

    dirtbags? You’re too kind. When I hear of these !@#$%s, I think about those in the WTC who jumped rather than burning alive, their apparent fate. Use whatever terms you like, but dirtbags is insufficiently negative IMO.

  • Stephanie says:

    Good analysis.

    Did anyone else read the Guardian report that Al Qaida is on the brink of collapse according to two of their clerics (in part due to ISIS)? Do you believe this is true?

    It will be interesting to see how things will develop now if that is true, especially with respect to the rise of ISIS and Zawahiri’s atrophying loyalists.

  • Guy Mullins says:

    There are many theories as to why the Americans did not show the bin Laden body or its burial at sea to the public. All sorts of reasons are given except for the mot obvious. Bin Laden was captured at Abbottabad and spirited away for interrogation. The new book, Osama’s Angel puts forth the hypothesis that this is what in fact happened and explains how the information was extracted from bin Laden to mount the numerous successful drone strikes on his comrades including this one on Wuhayshi.

  • mike merlo says:

    until the various the Fumblelina’s in the various Intelligence Agencies place as much emphasis on killing the Rank & File as they do ‘Leadership’ the GWOT will just whittle along

  • Tom McCabe says:

    I’m just too nice a guy. What can I say…

  • JOHN says:

    Another “old-school” Al Qaeda leader put down. As far as eliminating hey-day AQSL, two more major items on the agenda, as I see it.

    01. First, locate and dispose of Al-Zawahiri.

    02. Pressure Iran on nuclear deal…force them to turn over Saif al Adel and Abu Mohammed al-Masri and any other AQ leaders they have left under house arrest, as one of the many conditions for easing sanctions.


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