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Al Qaeda’s leader in Yemen under arrest, UN report reveals

In accordance with the UN, the chief of al Qaeda within the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Khalid Batarfi, was arrested and his quantity two, Saad Atef al Awlaqi, died throughout an “operation in Ghayda Metropolis, Al-Mahrah Governorate, in October.”

That is the primary time Batarfi’s arrest has been formally confirmed. The UN supplied no additional particulars in regards to the operation or on Batarfi’s present whereabouts. In early October, the SITE Intelligence Group drew consideration to “unconfirmed studies” indicating Batarfi had been arrested by Yemeni safety forces within the Mahra Governorate after which handed over to Saudi Arabia.

Batarfi grew to become the chief of AQAP in early 2020 after his predecessor was killed in a US airstrike. Batarfi, who’s in his early 40s, is from a Yemeni household however was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He educated with al Qaeda in Afghanistan earlier than 9/11 and later joined al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. Batarfi grew to become a key ideologue for the group and, in line with the UN, helped oversee its exterior operations earlier than he grew to become chief.

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The truth that Batarfi allowed himself to be captured alive throughout the raid moderately than securing “martyrdom” like Osama bin Laden might be a significant embarrassment to al Qaeda. In his inaugural tackle as AQAP chief final March, Batarfi said that “as per our methodology, the martyrdom of leaders is proof of its truthfulness, and it’s a badge of honor adorned by these leaders,” in line with a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Given Batarfi was the “emir” of one in every of al Qaeda’s key regional associates, there has arguably not been a extra senior al Qaeda chief captured alive since bin Laden based the group greater than 30 years in the past. Regardless of placing out statements on different issues in current months, AQAP has not acknowledged Batarfi’s arrest.

The lack of Batarfi is the most recent in a string of setbacks for AQAP. In February 2020, the US authorities introduced that Batarfi’s predecessor Qassim al-Rimi had been killed in an airstrike in Yemen. That adopted a lethal capturing assault in December 2019 at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a Saudi air drive officer who was coordinating with AQAP, in line with the US Justice division.

“Along with management losses, AQAP is struggling an erosion of its ranks attributable to dissentions and desertions,” and was compelled to disperse from Bayda Governorate after a big navy defeat, the UN report states.

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It states that the worldwide al Qaeda community “faces a brand new and urgent problem regarding its management and strategic course, following an distinctive interval of attrition of its senior leaders” in Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, Yemen and Syria’s Idlib province.

The report said that no member state had been capable of verify studies of the demise from pure causes of al Qaeda’s chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in October. Final month the US authorities publicly confirmed studies that his deputy Abu Muhammad al-Masri had been killed in Iran in August.

The UN report suggests the possible subsequent in line to take over from al-Zawahiri is Saif al-Adel, a veteran Egyptian al Qaeda operative who like al-Masri is believed to have lengthy resided in Iran.

The report states: “Ought to a succession to al-Zawahiri develop into essential, it might be tough for the brand new chief to take up residence in Afghanistan, as such a transfer might have an effect on the pursuits of the Taliban, given their peace course of obligations. Al-Qaida is predicted by Member States to beat these challenges, however it isn’t clear whether or not it can finally emerge stronger, underneath a extra dynamic management, or certainly the place its leaders will finally discover a secure haven from which to function.”

A possible future surge in ISIS terror assaults

In its wide-ranging evaluation of the worldwide jihadist risk, the UN report warns that as coronavirus restrictions are eased, “a rash of pre-planned assaults could happen” as a result of ISIS is set to make international information headlines as soon as once more.

The UN report notes that ISIS has loved a “captive viewers” amongst Islamist extremists cooped up indoors and spending extra time on-line throughout the pandemic, doubtlessly creating an collected risk.

Between September and November final yr, jihadis carried out a spate of terror assaults in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, underlining the enduring risk to Europe. A number of the attackers could have been motivated to behave earlier than it grew to become harder to focus on individuals congregating in public.

A lethal terrorist stabbing assault in a church in Good, France, in late October and a lethal marauding gun assault within the middle of Vienna, Austria, in early November had been carried out simply hours earlier than nationwide coronavirus lockdowns had been due to enter impact in France and Austria.

In accordance with the report, one jihadi community in Europe inflicting concern is the so-called ” ‘Lions of the Balkans’, a global community composed of components primarily based in not less than Austria, Germany, Switzerland and western Balkan nations.”

In accordance with the UN, each the Vienna attacker and a kind of arrested in reference to an ISIS plot to assault US and NATO navy bases in Germany thwarted by German police final April had been linked to this community, as had been three jihadis arrested in September in North Macedonia “detected to be concerned within the ultimate strategy planning stage of a terrorist assault.”

A darkening international risk image

The report warns that “[t]he financial and political toll of the pandemic, its aggravation of underlying drivers of violent extremism and its anticipated influence on counter-terrorism efforts are prone to improve the long-term [jihadist terror] risk in every single place.”

The UN screens assessed that “[i]n battle zones, the place restrictions on motion and gatherings are tough or not possible to implement, and the place international terrorist fighters have continued to journey freely, risk ranges have elevated,” with the pandemic weakening “the hand of governments in battle zones greater than it has inhibited terrorist teams.” The report warned that the pandemic’s “long-term influence on economies, authorities assets and allocations for worldwide cooperation dangers aggravating the risk additional.”

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In accordance with the report, an estimated 10,000 ISIS fighters proceed to wage a “sustained insurgency”in Syria and Iraq. The report says that though nearly all of these fighters are reported to be in Iraq, stress by Iraqi safety forces is making the nation harder for [ISIS] operations compared with” Syria.

Exterior the previous “caliphate,” the UN report singles out ISIS’s seizure of serious territory alongside the northern Mozambique shoreline and its projection of violence into Tanzania as of nice concern. In accordance with the report, ISIS fighters nonetheless maintain the Mozambique port of Mocimboa da Praia, “regardless of a sustained navy offensive from authorities forces.”

The report presents proof of ISIS cooperating all through the broader area, with some member states observing “operatives in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had acquired reinforcement of trainers, tactical strategists and monetary help remitted from the [ISIS] core by way of [ISIS] networks and enablers in Somalia and different East African nations.”

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