x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

'Killed' Al Qaeda leader delivers audio message from beyond the grave

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has posted online an audio message from its second-in-command, Saeed Al Shehri, whose death was announced by Yemen in January.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has posted online an audio message from its second-in-command, Saeed Al Shehri, whose death was announced by Yemen in January, a monitoring group says.

The 14-minute audio produced by AQAP's media arm Al Malahem Foundation is accompanied by what the US-based SITE Monitoring Service said was a new photograph of the Saudi militant.

Shehri's death has been announced several times by the Yemeni authorities, most recently on January 24.

It was unclear when the latest audio message, posted on jihadist forms yesterday, had been recorded.

Most of the message is directed against Saudi Arabia, which Shehri accuses of allowing Americans to attack "the faithful of Yemen" from their soil.

"We must get rid of the Al Saud regime by all means," he says.

He was clearly referring to US drone strikes against Al Qaeda targets in Yemen which jihadists claim are launched from bases in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Shehri has long been hounded by Yemen's security forces and has survived a number of attempts on his life.

Yemen's Supreme National Security Committee had in January reported that Shehri succumbed to wounds received in a counter-terrorism operation in the northern Saada province on November 28.

Last October, he denied a September announcement by Yemen's defence ministry that he had been killed in an army raid, in an audio message posted on extremist internet forums.

SITE had also quoted a radical Islamist as reporting on Twitter that Shehri had died "after a long journey in fighting the Zionist-Crusader campaign".

In the latest message, Shehri made no reference to reports of his death.

The militant leader was released from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2007 and was flown to Saudi Arabia, where he was put through a rehabilitation programme.

After completing the programme, he disappeared and later resurfaced as AQAP's No 2.

AQAP is led by Nasser Al Wuhayshi, who in July 2011 reaffirmed the group's allegiance to Ayman Al Zawahiri, head of the worldwide Al Qaeda network since the killing in May of its founder, Osama bin Laden.

The United States has stepped up its support for Yemen's battle against AQAP, which it regards as the most active and deadliest franchise of the global Al Qaeda network.

US drones strikes in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

In October 2000, Al Qaeda militants attacked US Navy destroyer the USS Cole in Yemen's port of Aden, killing 17 sailors and wounding 40 more.