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Yemen: Arabian al-Qaida's Number 2 is Dead

Deputy leader of al-Qaida in Yemen, Said al-Shihri, a Saudi national identified as Guantanamo prisoner number 372, speaks in a video posted on Islamist websites, January 24, 2009.
Yemen says a Saudi national freed by U.S. authorities from detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and who later rose to second in command of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has died.

A government statement Thursday said Said al-Shihri died of wounds sustained in a counter-terrorism operation in late November. The Yemeni state news agency said he had been in a coma since then. Neither the agency nor a statement Thursday from the Supreme National Security Committee gave the date of death, but a leading Saudi newspaper [Ukaz] said it occurred in late December.

Yemen had previously announced al-Shihri's death in a September 10 drone attack in Hadramawt province. But subsequent DNA testing proved the body recovered was not that of al-Shihri. Weeks later, a speaker in an audio tape played on terrorist websites identified himself as al-Shihri to deny his own death.

A classified Pentagon report made public by WikiLeaks in 2011 identified al-Shihri as a former officer in Saudi Arabia's internal security force who later joined al-Qaida to help route Saudi militants through Iran for combat in Afghanistan.

He was detained in 2002 by Pakistan and turned over to U.S. authorities. He was released from U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay five years later and returned to Saudi Arabia, where he was subjected to a Saudi rehabilitation program for militants. He later surfaced on the battlefield in Yemen.