A fugitive Saudi Arabian man, who was once detained at the US military prison at Guantanamo, was named as a senior member of al-Qaeda’s Yemen wing, according to a tape by the group shown on al-Arabiya television yesterday.
The tape also confirmed the deaths of three leaders killed in December and January during Yemeni air raids, the pan-Arab broadcaster said.
Among those killed were Abdullah al-Muhdar, the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen’s Shabwa province, Mohammed Amir al-Awlaki and Mohammed Saleh al-Kazimi.
Othman Ahmed al-Ghamdi, the 31-year-old man named as a leading al-Qaeda operative yesterday, had been added to a list of 85 most-wanted people by Saudi Arabia 15 months ago, al-Arabiya said.
He spent four years in Guantanamo prison after he was captured in Afghanistan. He was released in 2006.
Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a key Western security concern since the Yemen-based al-Qaeda arm claimed responsibility for a failed December attempt to bomb a US-bound passenger plane.
Last month, the group tried to assassinate the British ambassador to Yemen when a suicide bomber threw himself into the path of the convoy taking Tim Torlot to work in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.
The envoy was unharmed and only the suicide bomber died, but the bold hit signaled that a recent crackdown by Sana’a on the global militant group has done little to curb its ambitions to carry out attacks on international targets.
Western countries and Riyadh want Yemen, grappling with a northern Shiite insurgency and southern separatism, to quell its domestic conflicts to turn its focus on fighting al-Qaeda, which they see as a bigger global threat.
Guantanamo prison was set up by former US president George W. Bush in Cuba in 2002 to hold foreigners captured after US forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al-Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US.