London/Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat—A senior Yemeni official denied that the Sanaa government was in possession of any information regarding the reported killing of Saeed al-Shihri, deputy commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). According to a news report by Arabic television network Al Arabiya, al-Shihri was killed in an airstrike in Yemen in December 2012. This is the third time that the former Guantanamo detainee has been reported dead since 2010.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemeni adviser to Prime Minister Mohamed Basindawa said, “We do not have any information about the killing of Saeed al-Shihri in an air strike in December, or before or after that date”
The Yemeni official also stressed that there was no evidence that a Saudi national killed in an air strike on Monday, which targeted a number of Al-Qaeda elements in Yemen’s eastern desert region, was the AQAP deputy commander.
He said, “Two Al-Qaeda elements in Yemen were killed (on Monday); one of whom is a Saudi national in his thirties, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is Saeed al-Shihri.”
According to the Al Arabiya report, Saeed al-Shihri died after sustaining severe injuries from a joint US-Yemeni airstrike that targeted a convoy he was riding in. The report was based on “family sources” that claimed that the airstrike left al-Shihri in a coma. He allegedly died soon afterwards.
Al-Shihri was last heard from in an October 2012 audio recording denying reports that he had been killed in a 10 September air strike.
Asharq Al-Awsat is also in possession of information that Saeed al-Shihri uses more than 9 pseudonyms, including Abu Sufyan al-Azdi and Nur al-Din Aghani, among others. SITE Intelligence Group—which monitors global terrorism—reported that Jihadist Abdulla bin Muhammad said on his Twitter account that Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, died “after a long journey in fighting the Zio-Crusader campaign.”
On Wednesday, CNN quoted three senior Yemeni Defense Ministry officials that the country has no evidence proving al-Shihri’s death. One of the officials, talking to CNN on condition of anonymity, said: “We have no evidence to prove his death and our government continues to hunt down the leadership of the terror network.”
AQAP, led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, is classified by Washington as the most active and deadly franchise of the global Al-Qaeda network.