Middle east

Al-Awlaki Leads Al-Qaeda in Yemen After Batarfi‘s Death

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) confirmed on Sunday the death of its leader Khalid Batarfi without providing reasons, according to a statement from the “SITE” center, which monitors jihadist media, while the organization suffers significant losses and sees its ability to launch attacks weakened due to several factors, most notably the Southern Transitional Council’s ability in Yemen to diminish its influence.

The center noted that the organization’s legal official, Ibrahim Al-Qousi, confirmed in a recording broadcasted on Sunday the death of Batarfi, the leader of the organization since February 2020, announcing that “Saad bin Atef Al-Awlaki is the new leader of the organization in the Arabian Peninsula,” classified as a terrorist by the United States.

Batarfi, a Saudi born in Riyadh in the early 40s, took over the leadership of the organization in February 2020 after the death of its leader Qassem al-Rimi in a US drone attack, the latter having been killed by a US drone in Yemen in June 2015. Before taking over the organization, Batarfi was a Sharia judge and spokesperson for the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group. The United States classified him as a “global terrorist” in 2018 and offered a reward of five million dollars for any information about him.

As for his successor, Al-Awlaki, he is also known as Saad Mohammed Atef, a member of the organization’s Shura Council and on the US “Rewards for Justice” list. The United States claims that Al-Awlaki “publicly called for attacks on the United States and its allies.”

The presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, founded in 2009, increased along with other extremist groups amid the chaos caused by the war between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels.

However, strikes carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, especially between March 2015 and April 2022, as well as by the United States, weakened the organization and other groups that exploited the chaos in the region.

The United States considers Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, as the most dangerous branch of Al-Qaeda.

The organization has claimed several attacks, including the attack on the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris in 2015, which killed 12 people.

It also regularly carries out attacks against Yemeni soldiers, most notably last September, when it killed four soldiers in an attack in the Shabwah province in southeastern Yemen, as well as four members of the forces of “the Security Belt” affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council, in a bomb explosion planted by Al-Qaeda in August. The Southern Transitional Council in Yemen succeeded in weakening the organization and reclaiming many areas that were under its control in provinces like Shabwah, Abyan, and others.

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