Al-Qaeda's leader in Yemen under arrest: UN report

Fri 05 Feb 2021 at 08:26 Regional

NNA - The leader of Al-Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate has been under arrest for several months, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday, in what will be seen as a huge breakthrough in the fight against the global jihadist threat.

The document said Khalid Batarfi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for just under a year, was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, died during an "operation in Ghayda City, Al-Mahrah Governorate, in October."

The report -- filed to the Security Council from a UN monitoring team specializing in extremist groups -- is the first official confirmation of Batarfi's arrest following unverified reports.

The wide-ranging UN assessment, summarizing global potential jihadist threats, did not disclose the militant's whereabouts or reveal any further details of the October operation.

But the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the online activity of jihadist organisations, noted "unconfirmed reports" in October that Batarfi had been arrested by Yemeni security forces and then handed to Saudi Arabia.

AQAP revealed it had appointed Batarfi, believed to be in his early 40s, as its leader in February 2020 following the death of his predecessor Qassim al-Rimi in a US air strike in Yemen.

Batarfi, who was designated a global terrorist by the US State Department in 2018, has appeared in numerous AQAP videos over recent years, according to SITE, and appeared to have been Rimi's deputy and group spokesman.

Washington considers AQAP to be the worldwide jihadist network's most dangerous branch, and has waged a long-running drone war against the leaders of the group.

AQAP claimed responsibility for the 2019 mass shooting at a US naval base in Florida, in which a Saudi air force officer killed three American sailors.

It also said it was behind the 2009 'pants bomb' plot, in which an explosive device failed to detonate on a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached the US city of Detroit on Christmas Day.

where a Nigerian man trained in Yemen tried to detonate an explosive device on a plane as it approached the US city of Detroit.

The Sunni extremist group thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Shiite Huthi rebels.

Rimi had himself succeeded Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in June 2015.—AFP

 

 

 

==============R.H.

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