(WASHINGTON) — The second in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed in an American drone strike, the group said in a video statement on Wednesday, purportedly because he became lazy with his terrorist tradecraft.
Said al-Shehri, a Saudi Arabian national, was killed in Yemen, but it is unclear when the alleged strike took place. Al-Shehri had previously been reported killed several times but there was never confirmation from AQAP and in April an audio recording was released purportedly of al-Shehri.
Al-Shehri “was subjected to multiple bombings,” AQAP official Ibrahim al-Rubaish said in an obituary video posted online. “He was injured in three of them, sustaining injuries in both his arms and legs and losing an eye. The fourth time he was injured he was killed.”
Rubaish said al-Shehri died because he wasn’t careful enough in his communications.
“[Al-Shehri] cared so much about his people and checking up on them after military strikes by infidel armies that he became somewhat lax in his security measures when communicating with the network which allowed the enemy to get him,” Rubaish said.
Both Rubaish and al-Shehri were inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Shehri was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001 and released after six years in detention. After undergoing a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia for Islamic extremists, he vanished before re-appearing in AQAP’s leadership in Yemen.
“The enemies should not rejoice, there are many left who will harm them,” said Rubaish. “War will not cease until the bones of those who declared war on Islam have been crushed.”
AQAP is the most organized and feared of the al Qaeda branches that swear allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over what’s known as al Qaeda core after Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011.
“The death of Said [al-Shehri] marks a blow to Saudi AQAP militants operating in Yemen,” the spokesman for Yemen’s embassy in Washington tweeted on Wednesday.
The Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency have not commented on reports of al-Shehri’s death.
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Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN