Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 May 2020

Who is Khalid Saeed Al Batarfi, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s new leader?

Batarfi has risen through the ranks of Al Qaeda for over 20 years

Khaled Batarfi was formerly a spokesman for Aqap. AFP
Khaled Batarfi was formerly a spokesman for Aqap. AFP

Just hours after the death of leader Qasim Al Rimi, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula named his successor, Khalid Saeed Al Batarfi.

Also known as Abu Al Miqdad Al Kindi, the Saudi Arabian militant is a senior member of Aqap in Yemen’s Hadramout province and served on Aqap’s shura council.

Batarfi has been a member of Al Qaeda for over 20 years. He began his journey with the group in Afghanistan in 1999, training at the Al Farouq camp before fighting alongside the Taliban during the 2001 US invasion.

Little is known about his childhood in Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, Batarfi took up the cause of Aqap in Yemen, leading fighters in taking over the country’s southern Abyan Province. He was later named Aqap’s emir of Abyan following the death of Aqap leader Nasir Al Wuhayshi”

Batarfi also spent a spell in prison with his Aqap comrades. He served 4 years in Al Mukalla central prison until Aqap forces swept through the city in April 2015 and set a number of senior Aqap members free, including Batarfi, a security source in Al-Mukalla told The National.

His actions in Yemen earned the interest of the US. In June 2016, following a US strike on Aqap targets in Yemen, Batarfi promised retribution, warning that Al Qaeda would destroy the US economy and attack other US interests.

Prior to a decision to step back from the limelight in 2017, Batarfi had featured prominently in Aqap propaganda videos, offering religious guidance. In a 20-part series Stories from the Prophets released in early 2017 he gave lessons on everything from good parenting to fighting oppression over 20 episodes.

After the United States announced that it would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Batarfi appeared in an Aqap video in January 2018, threatening the United States and the Jewish people.

The provocation finally led to action from the US. On January 23, 2018, the US Department of State designated Batarfi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

In February 2020 Batarfi was named as Aqap new leader in the Arab peninsula succeeding Al Reimi whose death was confirmed by Al Qaeda.

Yemeni and foreign analysts consider Khalid Batarfi a strong choice for leadership of the group. His history of religious leadership in the group could revive its core ideology, which has suffered from fragmentation as the Yemeni civil war rages on.

Updated: February 24, 2020 03:56 PM

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