Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Confusion continued on Tuesday over media reports claiming that Wafa Al-Shihri, widow of the late Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) deputy commander Saeed Al-Shihri, had been arrested in Yemen.
Local media were reporting that Wafa Al-Shihri had been arrested along with Arwa Al-Baghdadi, a Saudi Al-Qaeda suspect who fled to Yemen in 2010.
A Yemeni security official speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed that a recent operation by the military in a residential area of Hadhramaut targeted senior Al-Qaeda member Abdelkarim Al-Ansi, a Yemeni national. The source said: “The operation resulted in two deaths and thee arrests. Four women were also detained.”
The security official said that the four women detained during the operation were all wives of Al-Qaeda figures, adding that they were all Yemeni nationals. However, he denied media reports that Wafa Al-Shihri or Arwa Al-Baghdadi were among them.
He said: “We did not arrest the four women, they were detained for one day before being surrendered into the care of their families. Two of them were from Taiz and the other two were from Hadhramaut.”
The source confirmed that the military operation resulted in the arrest of three Al-Qaeda members and the deaths of two others. Three army officers were also killed, including a colonel.
Many in the country took to Twitter immediately to speculate about the identity of the women arrested in the Yemeni military raid, named on the social media site as Wafa Al-Shihri or Arwa Al-Baghdadi, after unnamed sources claimed that the detainees included Saudi nationals.
Wafa Al-Shihri is reported to have recently given birth to a son, named Sufyan Al-Shihri. Earlier this year, AQAP confirmed that her husband had died of injuries sustained in a US drone strike in November 2013 after having twice survived similar attacks.
His widow is suspected of being in charge of raising finances for the terrorist organization after fleeing Saudi Arabia to join Al-Qaeda in Yemen. She is known to have called on Saudi women to join Al-Qaeda, and has been named as the joint leader of the Al-Qaeda women’s section.
The Yemeni Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday that an air strike on Al-Qaeda militants in Abyan province killed 12 earlier this week. The ministry confirmed that the attack targeted a vehicle carrying suspected Al-Qaeda militants.
“They were all killed and the vehicle was incinerated,” the statement added.