İrem UZUN -TDO- The leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has been under arrest for several months, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday, in what will be seen as a huge breakthrough in the fight against the armed group. The document said Khalid Batarfi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for just less than a year, was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, died during an “operation in Ghayda City, Al-Mahrah Governorate, in October”.
Batarfi's arrest was disclosed in a wide-ranging report to the United Nations Security Council by UN monitors tracking the global jihadi terrorist threat, which also warned of a potential surge in ISIS terrorist attacks as Covid-19 restrictions are eased. Batarfi became the leader of AQAP in early 2020 after his predecessor was killed in a US airstrike. Batarfi, who is in his early 40s, is from a Yemeni family but was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan before 9/11 and later joined al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. Batarfi became a key ideologue for the group and, according to the UN, helped oversee its external operations before he became leader.
The U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon were not immediately available to comment. The U.N. report said AQAP had faced internal setbacks in recent months. “In addition to leadership losses, AQAP is suffering an erosion of its ranks caused by dissensions and desertions, led primarily by one of Batarfi’s ex-lieutenants, Abu Omar al-Nahdi,” the report said.