Confirmed: US drone strike killed key al-Qa'ida leader Saeed al-Shihri in Yemen

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner was hit last year but Yemen branch has just announced death

The Yemen-based branch of al-Qa'ida confirmed today that the group's No. 2 figure, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, was killed in a US drone strike.

The announcement, posted on militant websites, gave no date for the death of Saudi-born Saeed al-Shihri.

The confirmation was significant, however, because al-Shihri had twice before been reported dead but the terror group later denied those reports.

His killing is considered a major blow to the Yemen-based al-Qa'ida branch, known as al-Qa'ida in The Arabian Peninsula.

Yemeni security officials said al-Shihri died of serious injuries sustained when a drone strike targeted him in November last year.

Al-Shihri had survived an earlier drone attack, in September 2012, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

Wednesday's announcement came in a video purporting to show the group's chief theologian, Ibrahim al-Robaish, eulogizing al-Shihri.

In the video, al-Robaish said al-Shihri was hit by the drone while speaking on his mobile telephone in the province of Saadah, north of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

The authenticity of the video, which was first reported by the US monitoring service SITE, could not be independently confirmed but it appeared on militant websites commonly used by al-Qa'ida.

Al-Shihri, also known as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in Guantanamo. He was returned to Saudi Arabia in late 2007 and later fled to Yemen to join the al-Qa'ida branch there.

In one of his last videos, which appeared on the Internet in April, al-Shihri harshly criticized Yemen's neighbor to the north, Saudi Arabia, for its policy of allowing the United States to launch deadly drone strikes from bases in the kingdom.

Washington considers the Yemen-based al-Qa'ida to be the most dangerous offshoot of the terror network after it was linked to several attempted attacks on US targets, including the foiled Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airliner over Detroit and explosives-laden parcels intercepted the following year aboard cargo flights.

The group made major territorial gains in Yemen last year, following the uprising that forced the country's longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after more than 30 years in power. al-Qa'ida militants and their allies seized several towns and cities in the south of the country before they were pushed back in a months-long, US-aided military campaign by government forces last year.

Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in office since last year, has worked closely with the US in pushing the group back.

An offensive by Yemeni troops backed by US airpower and advisers drove militants out of the southern cities and into mountain hideouts. Airstrikes, believed to be by US drones, have killed a number of key al-Qa'ida operatives.

Yemen is the most impoverished Arab nation. Its long coastline along the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea gives the nation a strategic commercial and military value. Its proximity to the Horn of Africa gives it the additional closeness to al-Qa'ida concentrations just across the waters in Africa.

Yemen's weak central authority, its complex tribal system and the remoteness of some of its regions have proven it to be an irresistible destination for al-Qa'ida militants from across the globe looking for a safer base.

There are no exact figures for the number of al-Qa'ida militants in Yemen, but they are widely believed to be in the hundreds and backed by a vast network of sympathizers in Yemen and abroad.

In 2011, a high-profile US drone strike killed US-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting US and Western interests, including the 2009 attempt on the Detroit-bound airliner and the 2010 plot against cargo planes.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine