A Yemen-based militant group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), on Monday denied that airstrikes ordered by the Yemeni government last week had killed its chief Qassim al-Raimi, along with five other top militants.
Last week, the Yemeni government had declared open war on the militant group and announced on Friday the death of the militants in airstrikes. If those strikes did fail to hit their targets, it could weaken Yemen's stance that it can tackle the militant threat posed by Al Qaeda without any foreign intervention. In response, Yemen’s interior ministry has promised more airstrikes against Al Qaeda militants in the country.
Meanwhile, on Monday, security forces in Yemen also reported the capture of AQAP second-in-command, Saeed al-Shehri.
According to Al Jazeera, AQAP denied in an internet posting that its chief had been killed.
AQAP did, however, concede that some militants were injured as a result of Friday’s raid on hideouts near Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia, reports The Washington Post.
In response to AQAP’s statement, Muttahar al-Masri, Yemen's interior minister, vowed further strikes on Al Qaeda in an interview with the state-owned “September 26” newspaper, reports Reuters.
Shehri’s capture is an important development in Yemen’s latest crackdown against AQAP militants. On Sunday, Yemen’s chief of central security warned the country’s tribes of dire consequences – without specifying what those might be – if they harbored Al Qaeda militants, reports Agence France-Presse.
However, The Christian Science Monitor reported that the Yemeni government is ill-equipped to take on AQAP militants.
The Monitor adds that the Yemeni government has insisted that it does not need US military intervention in its fight against AQAP, pointing to recent ground and airstrikes as “proof that it is winning the battle.”
Writing in Yale Global Online, former CIA official Bruce Riedel argues that the Yemeni government must tackle the AQAP threat alone.