AQAP executes alleged ‘spies’ blamed for leaders’ deaths

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Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an official branch of al Qaeda’s international organization, has publicly executed at least two men who were accused of serving as spies for Saudi Arabia and the US. Some accounts say as many as four men have been executed.

AQAP’s online jihadist supporters have alleged that the men played a key role in helping US officials locate and then kill the group’s senior leaders in drone strikes.

AQAP has lost several top leaders since the beginning of the year, including Nasir al Wuhayshi, the organization’s co-founder and emir, who was killed in a drone strike just days ago. Wuhayshi also served as al Qaeda’s global general manager.

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Pictures posted by jihadists on social media show the two “spies” kneeling on a beach in the port city of Al Mukallah, with AQAP members circling around them. The men are then shot and their bodies are strung up on a nearby bridge. Photos of the men on the beach can be seen on the right and above.

The Long War Journal has decided not to publish the graphic photos of the dead men’s bodies hanging from the bridge at this time.

There is no way to immediately verify AQAP’s claims regarding the men. Spies have reportedly infiltrated the group before. And AQAP has executed men accused of espionage on behalf of its enemies in the past. Last year, for instance, the group killed four men who were accused of implanting electronic tracking devices in vehicles targeted by American drones.

Social media accounts have buzzed with allegations of AQAP’s infiltration for weeks. One well-connected jihadist media operative known as Al Siyasi al Mutaqaid wrote a lengthy analysis claiming that AQAP’s media arm, Al Malahem Media, had a mole in his ranks.

Al Mutaqaid identified a man named Humam Al Hamid as a supposed double-agent. Al Mutaqaid further alleged that he had repeatedly warned AQAP about al Hamid, but his warnings were ignored. Another jihadist has translated al Mutaqaid’s claims into English and posted it online.

Al Hamid was recently detained by AQAP, according to multiple reports on social media. Some accounts identify him as one of the men executed on the beach in Mukallah. One photo purportedly shows al Hamid’s body either before or after his corpse was strung up on a bridge. However, this could not be confirmed as of this writing.

The controversy over al Hamid’s purported role is difficult to untangle, as his critics have alleged that he is connected to both the Islamic State, AQAP’s rival, as well as the American and Saudi spy agencies. It could be the case that these assertions are intended to paint the Islamic State in a negative light within the jihadists’ ranks, as Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization is frequently accused of working with the jihadists’ enemies in order to buttress its own cause.

Still, al Hamid did work for the Al Battar Media Foundation, which backs the Islamic State, before joining AQAP’s ranks. Al Battar has issued a statement addressing the rumors. While the media group conceded that al Hamid was one of its co-founders, it also claimed to have lost contact with him.

“Al Battar Foundation does not bear responsibility for the mistakes of [al Qaeda] and what resulted from them of malfunctions in its ranks,” the group said in a statement last month, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. “Therefore, supporters of the organization and its soldiers must admit their mistakes rather than preoccupy themselves with casting accusations on this side or that.”

According to SITE, Al Battar also said that al Hamid had “reached high positions, until he reached the councils of the emir of al Qaeda and its military and jurist leaders.” If true, then al Hamid may have had contact with the recently slain Wuhayshi, or his immediate advisers.

But Al Battar emphasized that whatever mistakes were made, it was AQAP’s fault, not the Islamic State’s. “You are responsible for this negligence and malfunction, not the State and its supporters. Humam al Hamid is one of the media officials in al Qaeda in Yemen and not in the State.”

Of course, the details of how the US and its partners killed several AQAP leaders in drone strikes this year are not publicly known. The precise intelligence is classified. Therefore, it is unknown whether or not spies have assisted the drone campaign in Yemen, as some jihadists are alleging.

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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  • mike merlo says:

    very interesting. One of the few instances I’ve read about that allow one to delve into the ‘back & forth’ that takes place between Terrorist Organizations. Too bad a video of the interrogation wasn’t made available. They don’t look like they were tortured but the ‘screen shot’ was a bit fuzzy so one can’t be sure

  • codejnkie says:

    Good article. Pleasant to see infighting within their ranks. They seem to have a bad habit of making floppy accusations and having little knowledge discipline.

  • Enrike says:

    This idiots still don’t know that the US is tracking them by satellite

  • Fred says:

    I love infighting. It exposes all the levers that are usually hidden behind the scenes. For those of us interested in the mechanics and organization of terrorist groups this is when to pay attention.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ Enrike

    The ‘people’ you speak know exactly how we’re conducting surveillance on them. They are doing the same thing to us & on all that which opposes them. Never underestimate these people. They have some very intelligent people working for & with them. Plus they receive a tremendous amount of outside support. Don’t bet for one second that the Communist Chinese don’t make information available to these people that they hacked from the US Government. These guys also have contacts in many Intelligence Agencies & the Private Sector

  • Evan says:


    If AQAP had any sense at all they’d target the mice that we’ve taught to fly the drones…..

    “Electronic sensors/devices placed in/on a vehicle”?

    “Secret agents infiltrating AQ, then relaying real time info to US intel”?

    It’s “cute” that they think the US needs things like that to track and kill them….

  • Blue eyes says:

    Am agreed to you Enrike.
    Would you like to join me at email for further discussions?
    Well, the article updated above is quite thrilling, the can’t be denied that if there is any reality in the claim of Hamids presence in the ranks of AQAP, there must be some contact between the former and the Wuhayshi (before his death). I am wait anxiously till the next episode of the proceeding story. Good job JOSCELYN !

  • Oberron says:

    Satellite Surveillance is useful, but not be all, end all. A satellite has to focus in on a spot as it passes by, then analysts have to pour over it for a while to determine what it is and have a color blind guy look at it as camo doesn’t work with them, which is why if you enter the military color blind, they all but kidnap you to intelligence or target acquisition batteries. They did it to my dad who wanted to be a tanker.

    Any event, once they pour over it, a follow up reconnaissance flight has to be launched by an aircraft to take a closer look. Then more time passes as decision makers make decisions.

    Meanwhile, Joe who we are interested in makes an annoying decision to go elsewhere and we blow up an empty house or the wrong house.

    More assessment… A Pentagon Spokesmen inadvertently leaks how we tracked someone and smart ones listening adjust their operations.

    Oh and it looks like IS is going Central Route, they just took several villages in the Syrian Central Corridor and renewing their advance on Hisayah. They are also throwing another assault against Hasakah City.

    Right now they’re letting Burkan Furat advance towards Raqqah and letting the increasing recriminations between FSA and YPG fester. It is no longer just the Ethnic Cleansing now, but YPG is posting pictures of its fighters putting their feet on IS flags and burning them, which FSA finds offensive as it has Quranic Script and the Prophet’s Seal, and prior agreement was that such flags would be buried. Given FSA and YPG have clashed before and YPG is in bed with the regime with a history of backstabbing everyone and getting schooled then go crying to someone else for aid, it won’t take much to get them fighting again. I suspect IS will draw the line at Ayn Issa which they are doing and Al-Hishah till they’re ready to counter-attack once they got the Regime where they want them.

  • Honza Prchal says:

    I am reminded that Josef Dzugashvili, later known as Josef Stalin, also had extensive cotacts with the czarist Ochrana, even whilst fighting them very effectively (and there’s evidence he used them to persecute rivals of the Bolsheviks).

  • JoeBlow says:

    You’d think that gathering on the beach for the execution would have also been a very target rich environment.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ Fred

    I couldn’t agree more

  • mike merlo says:

    @ Oberron

    “…YPG is in bed with the regime…,” what “regime” are you referring to?

  • irebukeu says:

    I think the ARGUS-IS system would be much more appropriate to what people are discussing here rather than satellites . I have posted links to the PBS documentary several times before so I will post a youtube link to the specific part of the documentary in regards to ARGUS for the sake of avoiding a third repost . Its just three and a half minutes long and will give you a very good idea of just what is going on. To think this is just the unclassified version of what can be seen.
    It is my opinion that Yemen is the perfect place for such a system due to the coastal access to the Navy and the bases in that nation that some people call our ally-Saudi Arabia.
    The documentary, available online, is called “Rise of the drones”

    I assume that wherever US special operations are in action drone systems like this are in play.


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