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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

US puts $5 million bounty on head of Al Qaeda leader in Yemen who urged attacks over Jerusalem

The Saudi-born Khalid Batarfi is a veteran of the militant group and has become a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Yemeni fighters loyal to the government backed by the Saudi-led coalition have been fighting back Al Qaeda cells in Hadramawt province in 2018. AFP Photo
Yemeni fighters loyal to the government backed by the Saudi-led coalition have been fighting back Al Qaeda cells in Hadramawt province in 2018. AFP Photo

The United States on Thursday offered a $5 million reward to find an Al Qaeda leader in Yemen who urged worldwide attacks on Jews and Americans after Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Saudi-born Khalid Batarfi is a veteran of the militant fighters who backed the Taliban in Afghanistan and has become a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the United States considers the global network's deadliest branch.

In a video released in January, Batarfi called President Donald Trump's precedent-breaking declaration on Jerusalem "a declaration of a new Jewish-Crusader war" and called on Muslims to "rise and attack the Jews and the Americans everywhere".

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The US State Department said it was offering $5 million to anyone who could lead authorities to Batarfi or contribute to his arrest or prosecution.

The US also raised from $5 million to $10 million the reward offered for Qasim Al Rimi, considered the emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

He is already under US and UN sanctions after being linked to a deadly 2008 attack outside the US embassy in Yemen and for his alleged support to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber who unsuccessfully tried to blow up a US-bound flight on Christmas Day in 2009.

An Al Qaeda logo on a street sign in the town of Jaar in Yemen’s southern Abyan province in 2012. AP
An Al Qaeda logo on a street sign in the town of Jaar in Yemen’s southern Abyan province in 2012. AP

Formed by the 2009 merger of Al Qaeda's Saudi and Yemen operations, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took advantage of the national disarray caused by Houthi advances in 2015.

The group carved out its own territory despite being frequently targeted by US drones.

Special Yemeni forces, backed by UAE and Saudi Arabian forces, have since driven Al Qaeda fighters out of most of their southern Yemen strongholds - including the city of Mukalla. But local commanders warn the group still poses a threat through its network of sleeper cells.