Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula announced its new leader Tuesday shortly after an al-Qaida video appeared on line saying U.S. airstrikes killed AQAP’s chief last week along with two other members. But analysts say the group has in the past proved resilient and, in some ways, perceptions of al-Qaida in Yemen are shifting as it shares enemies with its enemies.
An al-Qaida spokesman reads a statement in a video released Tuesday saying Nasser al-Wuhayshi is dead and former Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula military leader Qasim al-Raymi is now in command.
Musa Shteiwi is the Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan.
“The loss of any leader is significant. But al-Qaida has proved over time that they are resilient, that they have others that can replace him. And al-Qaida never in any country ceased to exist because one of its leaders [was killed]. But definitely this is a blow for al-Qaida,” said Shteiwi.
The reportedly dead leader was a long time al-Qaida fighter, formerly with Osama bin Laden and led AQAP during attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives, including the deadly shootings of the Paris-based newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The new man in charge has a similar history and both were part of the 2006 jailbreak in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, when 23 al-Qaida members escaped from the country’s toughest political prison.
Shteiwi said the United States has recently slowed its fight with al-Qaida as it focuses on the so-called Islamic State. He said the airstrike may be meant as a message to Saudi-allied countries at war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
(Voa reporting – Heather Murdock)