Saeed al-Shihri, the Yemen al-Qaeda’s second-in-command government announced killed recently, is still alive, sources close to the group said.
Yemen defense ministry announced on September 10 it killed Saeed al-Shihri, deputy leader of Yemen based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in a “qualitative operation” believed to have been conducted by a U.S. drone attack.
Local sources from Abyan said al-Shihri is still alive. “The man is present,” said an Abyan local source who is familiar with the groups’ activities. “I contacted several people [close to al-Shihri] and confirmed he wasn’t basically at the attack scene.”
Another Abyan source, known to be an al-Qaeda affiliate, said al-Shihri is still alive. “I am one hundred percent sure he [al-Shihri] is alive. So close sources from al-Shihri have also affirmed he is still alive,” said the al-Qaeda affiliate source. Both two sources spoke on anonymity conditions citing personal concerns.
The al-Qaeda affiliate source, reached by mobile from al-Mahfad area which is now under al-Qaeda control, said “many” of al-Qaeda leaders announced dead by government are still alive, too. “Sometimes, they [al-Qaeda leadership] avoid affirming or denying that their members are dead for fear of [government] pursuit,” he said.
Yemeni government has not commented since media has reported conflicting accounts on al-Shihri being alive.
London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, quoting a “senior government official”, reported on September 14 that symbols of corpses were taken from a Hadramout hospital for a DNA test which, according to the paper, proved al-Shihri was not among those killed by the drone attack. Saudi interior minister told the paper on September 16 that he is not sure yet that al-Shihri was among those killed.
However, Yemeni officials from the criminal investigation said that no DNA test has been taken yet to any of the corpses.
“We received four corpses, one of which is believed to be al-Shihri’s,” said a security officer at the criminal investigation department based on Sana’a. “Department of Criminal Evidence Investigation [in Sana’a] fetched them to Sana’a the second day of the attack for the DNA test but the American asked [Yemeni government] not to conduct any test,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous for not being authorized to speak to the press.
The officer said an American German team is arriving Yemen to conduct a DNA test of what believed to be the corpse of al-Qaeda second man along with three affiliate members killed by a U.S. drone attack in east province of Hadramout. The officer said he doesn’t know the specific day the team would arrive.
The officer said he had been to the criminal evidence department, where the corpse are, and saw four corpses but that no DNA test has been conducted yet either in Sana’a nor in Hadramout. “All were totally burned that no one can identify them [corpses].
Yemen has announced killing of Shihri three times before but the group has denied the news.
Al-Shihri is a Saudi national who was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2007 and was sent to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation.