Head of Al Qaeda in Yemen Arrested, UN Warns of Rising Threat


Al Qaeda’s lead affiliate in Yemen was arrested several months ago, according to the United Nations. Khalid Batarfi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been officially detained. No further details were provided by the UN.

The SITE Intelligence group had unconfirmed reports that Batarfi was arrested by Yemeni security forces and was given to the Saudi Arabia government sometime in October of 2020.

Who Is Khalid Batarfi?

Batarfi’s predecessor, Qassim al-Rimi, was killed in early 2020, making Batarfi the leader of AQAP. Batarfi, in his early 40s, was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Before 9/11 he trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and later joined al Qaeda in Yemen. He went on to become a key figure, overseeing major operations and ultimately stepping up to be the Yemen al Qaeda leader.

His arrest was disclosed by UN monitors to the United Nations Security Council. The report also showed that ISIS terrorist attacked could surge when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

It is an embarrassment to al Qaeda that Batarfi let himself be captured. Unlike Osama bin Laden, Batarfi did not secure his “martyrdom.” In a statement Batarfi made last March, he stated, “as per our methodology, the martyrdom of leaders is proof of its truthfulness, and it is a badge of honor adorned by these leaders.”

Batarfi is considered the “emir” in the al Qaeda regional affiliates. He is arguably one of the highest ranking al Qaeda affiliates to be captured since Osama bin Laden. The AQAP has yet to acknowledge the arrest.

The UN reports that Batarfi’s arrest has brought major setbacks for AQAP. It stated that globally al Qaeda’s leadership was facing new and pressing challenges, particularly in its senior leaders in Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.

ISIS Terror Attacks Could Surge

ISIS is determined to make global headlines once Coronavirus restrictions are eased. The terrorist group says it has been captivating audiences during the pandemic, particularly Islamist extremist, who were cooped up in their homes during the lockdown.

Last year in September and November, there were various terrorist attacks carried out in Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland. The UN also reported that a jihadi network in Europe called “Lions of the Balkans” were a threatening concern in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and western Balkan countries.

Rising Global Threat Level

The UN report indicated that with the economic and political turmoil the pandemic has caused, the arrest could increase terrorist threats throughout the globe.

Threat levels have increased already in high conflict parts of the world. An estimated 10,000 ISIS fighters are taking part in a sustained insurgency in Iraq and Syria. Governments are unable to enforce restrictions against foreign terrorist fighters that harbor in their countries, due to the pandemic.