London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemeni officials announced the death of a senior foreign Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader on Saturday, the second non-Yemeni AQAP leader to be killed in the last three days.
Senior AQAP commander Abu Islam Al-Shaishani, a Chechnian national, was killed in Abyan province on the fifth day of a major offensive targeting militants in the south of the country, state news agency SABA reported.
Shaishani had reportedly fought against Russian forces in Chechnya before moving to Yemen to join AQAP, local media reported.
Earlier this week, AQAP commander Abu Muslim Al-Uzbeki, an Uzbekistan national, was reported killed in clashes with government troops, also in Abyan province.
These reports about the nationality of the two senior AQAP fighters comes as controversy grows around the makeup of AQAP forces in southern Yemen. President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi earlier this week claimed that 70 percent of AQAP fighters are non-Yemeni nationals. “These foreigners don’t care if the country is destroyed,” SABA quoted the president as saying.
AQAP denied the president’s claim on Friday, according to a report by SITE Intelligence Group.
“The vast majority of the mujahideen are the sons of this Muslim country, where they were brought together by the brotherhood of faith, and they, with grace from Allah, are rooted in their tribes and among their Muslim brothers,” AQAP said in a statement, translated by SITE, which monitors radical websites.
Also on Saturday, four Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the Sanah area of Abyan province, with reports that popular committees and local tribesman are fighting alongside the central government army against AQAP.
SABA reported that terrorist hideouts were bombed from the air and by tank fire, with militants fleeing further south to escape the government forces.