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Al Qaeda announces death of Yemeni commander, terror monitoring group says

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:40 AM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The commander in the volatile Yemeni district of Arhab dies Sunday after an illness
  • Al Qaeda describes al-Haniq as one of the terror group's "wise men"
  • He is wanted by Yemeni authorities for attacks against its security forces

(CNN) -- Al Qaeda announced the death of a regional commander in Yemen, whom the group described as one of "its sheikhs of jihad and support," according to an online terror monitoring group.

Mohamed Ahmed al-Haniq, a commander in the volatile Yemeni district of Arhab, died Sunday from an illness, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced Thursday on jihadist forums. The announcement was picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terror-related websites.

AQAP described al-Haniq as one of the terror group's "wise men" and praised him as "one of its sheikhs of jihad and support," SITE said.

Al-Haniq was wanted by Yemeni authorities for attacks against its security forces.

He was believed to be behind terrorist threats in 2010 that forced the temporary closure of the British and U.S. embassies in the capital city of Sana'a.

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Al-Haniq proved an elusive figure for Yemeni authorities, who saw him slip through their hands last year during clashes between the AQAP group and anti-terrorism units, according to reports at the time by SABA, Yemen's state-run news agency.

In recent years, there were a number of conflicting claims and reports that al-Haniq had either been captured or killed.

The New York Times described al-Haniq as "an important tribal leader in the mountainous area," saying he was an example of how AQAP relied on traditions of loyalty to the tribe and the practice of granting protection to those who seek the tribe's hospitality.

AQAP also said al-Haniq's two sons were killed in terror campaigns. His eldest son, Omar, was killed in Iraq and another son, Nuruddin, was killed in a joint American-Yemeni airstrike, SITE said.

The announcement follows news that AQAP took responsibility for attacks that killed more than 180 Yemeni troops in recent days.

The attacks on the outskirts of Zunjubar in the province of Abyan were considered the bloodiest launched against Yemeni forces in recent days in which an estimated 200 troops were killed in three provinces.

A delegation from the Yemen Military Committee, the highest security authority in the country, reached Abyan on Wednesday as part of the investigation into how al Qaeda scored constant victories over the past week in the province.

Yemen's new president, Abdurabu Hadi, has vowed to fight al Qaeda and retake areas of Abyan seized by the militants.

CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali and Amir Ahmed contributed to this report.

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