Al-Ittihad, a newspaper from the UAE, has a story out today that claims Said Ali al-Shihri was killed when a bomb he was assembling exploded, killing him and wounding five others.
If true, and my sense is that it is, this would be a huge blow to AQAP. Al-Shihri is the highest ranking Saudi in the organization and he has been instrumental in the growth of AQAP over the past two years
According to the story, al-Shihri and several others were building the bomb in the White Mountain region near Lawdar in northern Abyan, on Wednesday when the bomb went off.
Al-Shihri, of course, is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who shot to prominence when he appeared in a video tape announcing the formation of AQAP and his return to al-Qaeda shortly after President Obama pledged to close Guantanamo two days after taking the oath of office.
This means that both former Guantanamo Bay detainees in that video – al-Shihri and Muhamad al-Awfi – are now out of the organization.
As of yet there has been no official statement from AQAP, confirming or denying this. And I wouldn’t expect one for a while still. For me the fact that al-Qusa was willing to go on the record strongly suggests that this is true.
I’ll post more as information becomes available.