Al-Qaeda leader captured alive in Yemen, UN report reveals

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According to a document from the United Nations Panel of experts, Al Qaeda leader in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Khalid Batarfi, has been captured last October in Yemen. The Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team report revealed the arrest took place in the city of al-Ghayda, in the province of al-Mahra, during an operation in which the number two, Saad bin Atef al-Awlaqi, died. Khalid Batarfi, 40, was leading the jihadist organization for a year, following his predecessor Qassim al-Rimi’s death in a US attack in Yemen.

The terrorist organization is well established in Yemen and is considered the most active in the Al-Qaeda galaxy. It has been founded in 2009. The group took advantage of the war since 2014, attacking both government forces and Houthi rebels. AQAP also claimed responsibility for some attacks against Europe and the US, for example, the massacre in the Charlie Hebdo editorial office (13 dead in January 2015) and the shooting at the air-naval base in Florida (3 dead in 2019).

Ere joining AQAP, Batarfi trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan before 9/11. He later became a key ideologue for the group and helped oversee its external operations before becoming its leader.He is the most senior al-Qaeda commander to be caught alive since Osama bin Laden founded the group 30 years ago. AQAP has yet to endorse or recognize Batarfi’s arrest. But his capture will prove another blow to the organization.

“In addition to leadership losses, AQAP is suffering an erosion of its ranks caused by dissensions and desertions,” and was forced to disperse from Al Bayda Governorate after a significant military defeat, the UN paper indicates.The US government previously announced that Batarfi’s predecessor, Qassim al-Rimi, was killed in an airstrike in Yemen. That followed a deadly shooting in December 2019 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, from a Saudi air force officer who, according to the US Justice Department, was working with AQAP.

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