SANAA (AFP) – Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has confirmed the death in a U.S. drone strike of its deputy leader Saeed al-Shehri, whose killing has been announced several times by Sanaa.
Shehri was released from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2007 and was flown to Saudi Arabia, where he was put through a rehabilitation program.
After completing the program, the militant leader disappeared only to resurface later as AQAP’s number two.
“Sheikh Saeed al-Shehri, aka Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, was killed in a U.S. drone strike,” said a leader in AQAP, Ibrahim al-Rubaish in a video posted on Islamist websites Wednesday.
Rubaish, who gave no indication of when Shehri was killed, said that “lax security measures during his telephone contacts has enabled the enemy to (identify and) kill him”.
In a eulogy to Shehri, he said he had “planned the kidnap of the Saudi deputy consul in Aden,” Abdullah al-Khalidi, who has been held captive by AQAP since March 2012.
AQAP militants are demanding the release of female Al-Qaeda-linked prisoners held in Saudi in return for Khalidi’s release.
Shehri had been hounded by Yemen’s security forces and had survived a number of attempts on his life.
His death has been announced several times by the Yemeni authorities, most recently on January 24.
In April, AQAP released an audio message purported to be a newly-delivered address by Shehri.