Center for Strategic Communication


Said al Shihri, from the second edition of Inspire, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s propaganda magazine, which was obtained by The Long War Journal.

The Yemeni government claimed today that the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Said al Shihri has died “after succumbing to wounds received in a counter terrorism operation” late last year. A prominent jihadist and the Middle Eastern press have also recently claimed that al Shihri is dead.

“The Supreme National Security Committee of the Republic of Yemen announced today the death of Sa’id al Shihri, known also by the pseudonym ‘Abu Sufyan Alazdi’, the cofounder and second-in-command (Deputy Emir) of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), after succumbing to wounds received in a counter terrorism operation in the governorate of Saadah on the 28th of November, 2012,” read a statement that was translated by the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, DC.

The Yemeni government indicated that al Shihri was killed in a joint operation with the US, which is known to operate drones that target AQAP leaders and fighters in Yemen.

“The security committee highlighted Yemen’s cooperation with the international community in the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism,” the statement continued. “Al Shihri who has survived multiple operations in the past, was buried in undisclosed location inside Yemen by al Qaeda linked militants.”

The statement by the Yemeni government was issued just one day after rumors of Shihri’s death appeared in Middle Eastern newspapers. Additionally, a jihadist linked to AQAP announced that the deputy AQAP emir is indeed dead. [See Threat Matrix report, AQAP deputy emir Said al Shihri likely killed in US drone strike.]

According to Al Arabiya, al Shihri’s family “said he was severely injured after a joint Yemeni-U.S. operation targeting al-Qaeda members in Yemen in the second week of December, 2012.”

“After falling into a coma, Shihri was later declared dead and was buried in Yemen,” the newspaper reported.

And two days ago, “prominent jihadist Abdullah bin Muhammad” released a statement announcing al Shihri’s death, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

“I send to the Ummah [Muslim community] news of the martyrdom of Sheikh Said al Shahri after a long journey in fighting the Zio-Crusader campaign,” bin Muhammad said. The jihadist has access to AQAP propaganda, SITE noted, as he “released missing audio from the AQAP video ‘Jihad of the Ummah’ that announced a bounty on American Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald M. Feierstein.”

The date of the operation in which al Shihri was wounded is unclear. The Yemeni government claimed he was wounded in an operation on Nov. 28, while family members said he was wounded in mid-December. No drone strikes were reported in Yemen between Nov. 8, 2012 and Dec. 23, 2012.

However the US is known to have conducted a strike in Saada on Oct. 28, 2012. In that strike, US drones targeted two compounds, killing four AQAP fighters, including two Saudis [see LWJ report, US drones kill 4 AQAP fighters in rare strike in northern Yemen].

AQAP has not released an official statement to announce the death of al Shihri.

Al Shihri has been reported killed or captured several times in the past. Most recently, On Sept. 10, 2012, the Yemeni military claimed that he was killed in a military operation. Al Shihri released a statement on Oct. 20, 2012 in which he denied the reports of his death. In February 2011, he was rumored to have been killed while working with explosives. In January 2010, Yemeni officials claimed that al Shihri was captured. And in December 2009, al Shihri was said to have been killed by a US cruise missile attack.

Background on Said al Shihri

Shihri is a Saudi citizen who was detained by the US in Afghanistan in 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 for his connections to al Qaeda. He had served as an “al Qaeda travel facilitator” in Mashad, Iran, where he would help al Qaeda operatives enter Afghanistan. He was also connected to the Saudi ‘charity’ al Wafa, which has been designated under Executive Order 13224 as a terrorist organization and is briefly mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s report as an al Qaeda front.

In November 2007, Shihri was released from Guantanamo and placed into Saudi custody, where he then entered a government-run rehabilitation program for former jihadists. Less than a year later, in September 2008, Shihri played a direct role in al Qaeda’s attack on the American embassy in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. That attack killed 10 civilians, along with six terrorists.

In February 2009, when Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda in Yemen merged to form Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Shihri was named as deputy to AQAP emir Nasir al Wuhayshi.

For more information on Said al Shihri, see LWJ report, Return to Jihad.