Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Killing Yemen Al Qaeda's No. 2 Is No Death Blow to the Group

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Killing Yemen Al Qaeda's No. 2 Is No Death Blow to the Group

Article excerpt

Less than 24 hours after the Yemeni defense ministry reported the death of Said al-Shihri, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)s No. 2, the Yemeni capital shook as a car bomb targeting Yemeni Minister of Defense Mohamed Nasser Ahmed exploded outside the prime ministers office in Sanaa. Editor's note: The previous sentence has been edited to correctly reflect the defense minister's name.

The attack left at least 13 dead, but failed to injure the minister himself. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell to AQAP, the attack serving as a reminder that despite facing numerous setbacks recently, the Yemen- based Al Qaeda franchise remains a dire threat to this nations tenuous stability.

Mr. Shihri, the highest-ranking Saudi within AQAP, took part in battles in both Afghanistan and Chechnya before being captured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2001 and put in prison in Guantanamo Bay for six years. Transferred to Saudi Arabia, he was released after going through a government-run rehabilitation program in 2008. But within weeks of his release, he joined forces with a number of fellow former Guantanamo detainees, headed south to Yemen, and rejoined the fight, teaming up with Nasr al-Wuhayshi, a former aide of Osama bin Laden who currently heads AQAP. (See a Monitor report on the rehabilitation center.)

Shihri appeared in a video with Mr. Wuhayshi formally announcing the groups formation less than six months after Saudi authorities determined that he no longer constituted a threat.

Shihri is believed to have had a key operational role in AQAP, allegedly helping to plan a 2009 assassination attempt on Mohamed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabias deputy minister of the interior, in addition to playing a major role in the groups fundraising and recruiting efforts within the kingdom.

The details of the strike that killed Shihri who has been erroneously reported killed before remain unclear. A statement from the Yemeni Ministry of Defense claimed that Shihri and six others were killed in a Yemeni military operation in the eastern province of Hadramawt, while the Associated Press, quoting anonymous sources within the Yemeni military, said that a missile, likely fired from an American-operated unmanned drone, targeted the vehicle carrying Shihri and his companions. …

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