Security forces in Yemen have killed Said Ali al-Shehri, described as the second-in-command of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), government officials say.
The Yemeni Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the No. 2 of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Saudi Arabia-born al-Shehri and six of his associates, were killed in an airstrike in the Wadi Ain area of Hadramawt.
The statement did not mention when the operation took place.
A Yemeni government website said al-Shehri was released by the U.S. from detention in Guantanamo Bay in 2007, and was flown to Saudi Arabia, where he was put through a Saudi al-Qaida rehabilitation program for militants.
After completing the program, al-Shehri disappeared and later resurfaced as the second man in AQAP, which has been repeatedly described by the U.S. State Department as terrorist organization and the most dangerous of the jihadist network's worldwide affiliates.
He escaped death on Sept. 20, last year when U.S. drones carried out several air strikes on the village of Al-Mahfad in Abyan province in the south.
Meanwhile, a tribal source said that a ground operation, not an airstrike, had taken place in the province of Hadramawt.
On the other hand, according to Al-Arabiya, a high-ranking Yemeni security source said al-Shehri was killed in an operation last Wednesday, which was thought to have been carried out by a U.S. drone, rather than the Yemeni military. The source said another Saudi and an Iraqi national were among the others killed. This information could not be independently confirmed.
Al-Shehri was not the first leader of the al-Qaida organization to be killed in Yemen. Last year Yemeni and U.S. officials announced the death of the American- born Anwar al-Awlaki in a targeted strike that also killed Samir Khan, an alleged propagandist for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition, Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted, in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in which 17 U.S. service members were killed, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in May 2011.
In related news, Press TV reported that, according to Yemeni media, about 4,000 American troops, a number of F-16 jet fighters, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy military transport aircraft and Apache helicopters have been stationed in al-Anad Air Base in Lahij province.
However, the report did not explain the reasons for reinforcement in in al-Anad Air Base in this particular time.
No doubt it was an airstrike, and of course those who work in this area and know its geography very well, even more than its own people, are the U.S. forces, who own reconnaissance planes.
The killing of al-Shehri is a blow to al-Qaida, but not a mortal blow, as al-Qaida is used to moving with its members for more safe areas. For example, in Somalia, there are still organizations related to al-Qaida. Some of them are active and some are nonactive cells.
I think after this strike, al-Qaida will move from Yemen to Somalia.