Al-Qaida of Yemen Reports Senior Figure Killed by Drone

CAIRO (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

A senior figure in al-Qaida’s Yemen branch was killed last week in a U.S. drone strike in the country’s south, the group said Thursday in an online “martyrdom” announcement.

Harith bin Ghazi Nathari, identified by the group as a member of its committee on sharia, or Islamic law, died along with three other al-Qaida fighters in the strike, according to the announcement. The strike took place Jan. 31 in the southern province of Shabwa, it said.

Earlier in January, Nathari, considered an influential figure in al-Qaida, had praised the deadly attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo but stopped short of claiming responsibility on behalf of the organization’s Yemen branch. Another leader of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, subsequently declared that the group had financed and orchestrated the Paris assault.

In a statement posted online, the AQAP said American drone strikes against it were being carried out with the help of Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels who last year seized control of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. A dangerous power vacuum developed after the resignation last month of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

In its statement, AQAP cited “American and regional collusion” in the rise of the Houthis and called the rebels a “loyal partner to America,” according to a translation by the Maryland-based SITE intelligence group, which monitors jihadist activity.