The leader of the jihadist organization Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQPA), Khalid Batarfi, was arrested last October in eastern Yemen, a United Nations (UN) report released Thursday said.
According to this report addressed to the United Nations Security Council, Khalid Batarfi, said Abou Miqdad el-Kindi, who had taken the head of AQAP a year ago, “was arrested in October during an operation in Gheïda (Mahra province), which also led to the death of the second in command, Saad Atef el-Aoulaqi ”.
The document does not specify by whom Batarfi was captured, nor what has become of him since. However, this is the first official confirmation of this arrest, which has been mentioned several times in recent months but could not be verified.
“In addition to the losses caused within its command, the AQAP suffered an erosion among its ranks, due to dissensions and desertions, led mainly by one of the former lieutenants of Batarfi”, further indicates the UN report, which warns, however, against “the constant threat” that continues to pose this jihadist group well established in Yemen.
Attacks in Yemen, the United States and Europe
Batarfi, who is said to be in his 40s, took over as head of AQAP in February 2020 after the death of former group leader Qassem al-Rimi, killed in an American airstrike in Yemen.
Created in 2009, AQPA is considered by the United States as the most dangerous branch of the jihadist network. It took advantage of the chaos caused by the ongoing war since 2014 in Yemen between rebels and power to strengthen its hold in the south and south-east of the country. The organization has carried out attacks in Yemen in recent years against both Houthi rebels and government forces.
AQPA also claimed responsibility for attacks in the United States and Europe, including that of the headquarters of the satirical weekly Charlie hebdo in Paris in 2015, which killed 12, and a shooting that killed three in 2019 at a US naval air base in Florida.
A “constant threat” to Yemen
Since 2017, the United States has stepped up attacks against this group. According to experts, the network has lost its influence today. “In addition to the losses caused within its command, AQAP suffered an erosion among its ranks, due to dissensions and desertions, led mainly by one of the former lieutenants of Batarfi”, thus indicates the UN report.
The document warns, however, against “the constant threat” that continues to pose this jihadist group in Yemen. He mentions in particular a “major attack” which left several dead in Lodar, in the province of Abiyan, despite “the relative tranquility following the capture of Batarfi”.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions more have been displaced during this war, which according to the UN has caused the world’s most serious humanitarian disaster.