Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Controversy continues to surround the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Saeed Al-Shihri. It appears that reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated—and not for the first time.
Shihri has been pronounced dead on three separate occasions by the Yemeni government, most recently in January this year; however, an audio message purporting to be from the Al-Qaeda deputy commander, has been posted online by the official media wing of AQAP.
Yemeni officials refused to confirm or deny reports that Shihri is alive.
One Yemeni official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, stressed that Sana’a had never officially announced Shihri’s death, only announcing that an unknown Saudi national had been killed in a US drone strike.
Well-known Al-Qaeda expert Said Al-Jamhi informed Asharq Al-Awsat that for the past two weeks, AQAP has been stating that Shihri is alive. He claimed that Shihri had been injured in the US drone attack, most likely suffering facial injuries.
He said, “This time, they [Al-Qaeda] are certain; the man [Shihri] was injured but received medical treatment. They leaked that he had been killed, and uncovered the agent who informed to the Americans.”
Jamhi confirmed that the voice in the recording belonged to Shihri. In the 14-minute recording, Shihri condemned a February anti-terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia, while he also made reference to a meeting of Arab ministers in March. Both of these events took place following reports of his death.
Jamhi told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I am certain [that the voice belongs to Shihri]. He was perhaps injured in his eye, and Al-Qaeda considers the uncovering of the spy [who set up the attack] to have been accomplished.”
This is the third time that Al-Shihri has been announced dead only for such reports to be proven wrong.