In an exclusive Al Jazeera interview, ex-operative says Saleh “plays with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula like chess”.
The head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Sheikh Abu Basir Nasser al-Wuhaishi was killed in a US air strike along with two other fighters in Yemen, an al-Qaeda spokesperson said in an online address.
In the video posted online on Tuesday, Khaled Omar Baterfi said the group has assigned its military chief, Qassim al-Raymi, as its new leader. Raymi has already been acting as the group’s top military commander.
|AQAP spokesman Khaled Omar Baterfi said Wuhaishi was succeeded by Qassim al-Raymi [YouTube]|
“He [Wuhaishi] was very well known in Afghanistan and was very close to Osama bin Laden, known as his secret keeper,” Baterfi said in the video.
Baterfi added that Wuhaishi was formerly imprisoned and had previously survived an assassination attempt.
‘Successor more dangerous’
Hisham al-Omeisy, a Yemen analyst in Sanaa, told Al Jazeera that the new al-Qaeda leader in Yemen is “more dangerous and aggressive than Wuhaishi”.
“You will be seeing a more aggressive al-Qaeda. Raymi is the mind behind huge operations like the assassination attempt against the defence minister in Saudi Arabia, the US embassay attack in Sanaa in 2008 and attacks on several military officials in Yemen.
“Al-Qaeda is more established in Yemen than it is anywhere else. It does not have an alliance with ISIL – they are not as vile as ISIL, nor do they follow the same methods as them,” al-Omeisy added.
Wuhaishi was a Yemeni citizen from the province of Abeen, southeast of capital Sanaa, and headed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula since 2009.
He was believed to be at least 37 years old.
In 2010, the UN Security Council named him as one of the most dangerous members of the armed group.
Wuhaishi started training in 1990 in Afghanistan, which is where he became close to Osama Bin Laden. He became his aide and managed his finances and personal issues.
Wuhaishi was among the aides of Bin Laden when he fled to Tora Bora close to the Pakistani borders during the US invasion of Afghanistan.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US he was arrested and held for three years in Iran.