South24 Center

AQAP changes leaders amid Southern forces' successes


Mon, 11-03-2024 07:49 PM, Aden

Aden (South24) 

Yesterday, the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced the death of its leader, Khaled Batarfi, and the appointment of Saad bin Atef Al-Awlaki as his successor.

The announcement was made in a video released on the AQAP-affiliated Al-Malahem media platform, by Ibrahim Al-Qusi, a member of AQAP’s Shura Council, known as ‘Abu Khubaib Al-Sudani’.

Abu Khabaib Al-Sudani said that Khaled Batarfi, known as ‘Abu Al-Miqdad’, had died, without offering any further detail regarding his death. It was announced that Saad Al-Awlaki, nicknamed ‘Abu Al-Laith’, was chosen by AQAP's Shura Council as the new emir.

The released video showed the body of Khaled Batarfi wrapped in a shroud and a banner with the words “Ansar al-Sharia” written on it, which is the local name for AQAP in Yemen.

Batarfi, who hails from Saudi Arabia, had been the acting leader of AQAP since February 2020, after succeeding Qasim al-Rimi, who was killed in an American raid.

Before assuming a leadership role in AQAP, Batarfi performed judicial duties within the organization and served as its spokesman.

In 2018, the United States (US) designated him as a global terrorist and offered a reward of $5 million to anyone who could provide information about him.

As for the new leader of AQAP, Saad bin Atef Al-Awlaki is Yemeni and was formerly considered the second-in-command of AQAP after Batarfi.

The US Rewards for Justice Program has previously offered $6 million in exchange for providing information about Al-Awlaki.

The US State Department said that Al-Awlaki had publicly called for attacks on the United States and its allies.

The US considers AQAP to be the most dangerous branch of Al-Qaeda.

Since its inception, Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including a notorious attack that targeted the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015 and resulted in the deaths of 12 people.

Reports in recent years have pointed to disagreements between Batarfi and Al-Awlaki regarding AQAP’s approach and policy, with the latter enjoying the support of Yemen’s tribal population, according to informed sources.

Batarfi had appeared in several visual publications over the past two years, which focused largely on the battles between the organization and the Southern forces in Abyan Governorate.

AQAP has suffered major defeats at the hands of the STC-affiliated Southern forces since August 2022, when Major General Aidrous Al-Zubaidi, the STC President, announced the launch of the ‘Arrows of the East’ military campaign.

Related: Southern Forces: Abyan's «Arrows of the East» Operation is Completed 

In the months since the campaign began, the Southern forces have announced control over the most prominent AQAP strongholds in Abyan, including the largest AQAP camp in the Arabian Peninsula, Wadi Oemran.

Related: Southern Forces Control the Largest Military Camp for AQAP 

The STC accuses the Houthis of coordinating with AQAP against its forces. The allegations are supported by reports that the leadership of Al-Qaeda’s global organization was transferred to Saif Al-Adel, who is believed to be residing in Iran, after the killing of Al-Zawahiri in a US attack in July 2022.

Furthermore, there is a deep belief among the political elites in South Yemen that the former regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to consolidate the presence of AQAP in South to counter the increasing political demands of Southerners, which had escalated to the point of calling for independence.

South24 Center

South YemenYemenAQAPAl-MalahimMedia outletAyman Al-ZaqahiriSTCSouthern ForcesUSKhaled BatarfiHouthis