SANAA (AFP) – – Yemen confirmed on Saturday the deaths of six senior Al-Qaeda figures in an air strike as its security forces pressed ahead with a crackdown on the group by arresting three suspected militants.
The interior ministry said Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) military boss Qassem al-Rimi died when a missile hit his vehicle in the eastern part of Saada province on Friday.
Also killed were Ayed al-Shabwani, Ammar al-Waili, Saleh al-Tais, Egyptian Ibrahim Mohammed Saleh al-Banna and an unidentified sixth person, the ministry said in a statement on its website.
There had been conflicting reports about the identities of those killed when a warplane targeted a three-vehicle convoy, with one report on Friday saying that Waili and Tais had escaped.
Rimi was among 23 people who had made a daring escape from a state security prison in Sanaa in February 2006 that left the Yemeni government red-faced, and he was on a list of 152 wanted suspects.
Banna, also known as Abu Aymen al-Masri, was said to be an “ideologist” of the group.
Meanwhile, the defence ministry announced the arrest on Saturday of three suspected Al-Qaeda members in the northern area of Alb, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
It named them as Ahmed al-Razehi, Yasser al-Zubai and Ahmed al-Heemi, and said they were wearing military fatigues and had guns and explosives.
Saturday’s arrests were the latest in a series of blows since late December, when the government launched its latest campaign against Al-Qaeda.
On Tuesday, security forces killed Abdullah Mehdar, said to be the group’s kingpin in Shabwa province, east of the capital.
Provincial Governor Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi said dozens of fighters, including Saudis and Egyptians who had fled Afghanistan, were holed up in Shabwa.
Among them, he said, were current AQAP chief Nasser al-Wahaishi, his Saudi number two Saeed Ali al-Shehri and radical US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi.
Yemen Post newspaper reported on Saturday that the radical US-born Awlaqi, who may be linked to the botched Christmas Day plane bombing of a US-bound airliner, is living in south Yemen under Al-Qaeda protection.
“My son is alive” in Shabwa province, Awlaqi’s father Nasser told the newspaper. “He now probably has some Al-Qaeda members protecting him because they are from the same tribe, and not because he is an Al-Qaeda member.
“Anwar is a moderate Muslim. He believes in the principles of Islam. He is not an extremist,” his father added.
AQAP has claimed responsibility for the failed December 25 attack on a Northwest Airlines plane.
Washington has confirmed the Al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen was behind the attack and said that it trained the alleged Nigerian assailant, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Yemeni officials also announced last week the capture of Mohammed al-Hanq and two other militants believed to be behind threats against Western interests in Sanaa that caused embassies to close for several days.
Yemen is under US pressure to clamp down on Al-Qaeda, and analysts say that the government in the impoverished state is keen to show the world it can crush Al-Qaeda militants on its own.
Yemen “wants to avoid a foreign military intervention targeting Al-Qaeda,” said Adel al-Ahmadi, a Yemeni specialist on the group.
“Yemen is trying to say that it can accomplish the mission on its own, and just needs logistical assistance… and political support to consolidate its regime in the face of local adversaries.”
For Sanaa, the “successive and successful strikes carried out since December 17 prove that logistical and intelligence assistance is more effective” than direct intervention by foreign forces, said analyst Said Ali Obeid al-Jamhi.
The council of Yemeni clerics warned on Thursday of jihad, or holy war, if there is any foreign military intervention in the country.
An international conference on Yemen will be held in London on January 27.
“It’s our duty to help Yemen,” Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah told Al-Qabas newspaper in an interview to be published on Sunday.
“They (Al-Qaeda) are trying to convert Yemen into a centre for the export of international terrorism and we must confront them.”
Singer and songwriter pens ballad about ‘bunker boy Donald Trump’
Singer/songwriter Courtney Jaye, whose album "Love and Forgiveness" was named as one of the Top 50 Albums of 2013 by American Songwriter, has penned an epic ballot dedicated to President Donald Trump.
It was reported Sunday that Trump was rushed to the White House bunker on Friday evening as a few hundred protesters surrounded the building. As the weekend progressed, more and more protesters have come to stand in opposition to police violence and a White House they feel isn't doing enough to stop it.
Trump has tried to claim that he was really just "inspecting" the bunker, but it went down like a lead balloon.
Three right-wing ‘boogaloo’ militants arrested on terrorism charges in Las Vegas: report
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors announced that three far-right militants with ties to the "boogaloo" movement have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in Las Vegas, according to The Seattle Times.
"Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus and later sought to capitalize on protests over the death of a Minneapolis man in police custody," reported Michelle Price and Scott Sonner.
‘Showing off with these complete sentences’: Internet rejoices as ‘Real President’ Obama speaks – ‘I miss him’
Former President Barack Obama delivered forward-looking, encouraging remarks in response to the police killing of George Floyd and the ongoing nationwide protests, and the Internet rejoiced. President Obama's comments, part of a town hall organized by his My Brother's Keeper Alliance, were focused for his younger audience, and were short and seemingly off-the-cuff, yet inspired a nation thirsting for caring, intelligence, and leadership.
Take a look.
I Love President Barack Obama.