Al-Qaeda says leading figure in Yemen dead: SITE

Al-Qaeda says leading figure in Yemen dead: SITE

Al-Qaeda has announced the death of an important regional commander in Yemen who had threatened Western targets and narrowly escaped capture in 2010, a US monitoring group reported.

Muhammad al-Hanq died from illness on March 4, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced yesterday in a communique issued on jihadist forums and picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist websites.

Hanq was reported killed in January 2010, when his threats forced the closure of foreign embassies in Sanaa, but it later emerged that the regional Al-Qaeda commander survived a clash in his Arhab region, outside the capital.

"We give condolences to the Muslim Ummah (community) and the proud tribe of Arhab in particular, for the death of the jewel of their eyes and the pride of their elites, the honorable sheikh and mujahid preacher Abu Omar Muhammad al-Hanq, may Allah's vast mercy be upon him," the AQAP statement said.

"The Sheikh died on his bed after storming fields of death, and he escaped several times from certain death at the hands of his enemies among the crusaders and their henchmen, who lied in wait for him over the past years."

Al-Qaeda linked militants in Yemen have seized several towns and cities in the country's south and east, including the port of Zinjibar, in the wake of mass protests against Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime last year.

Saleh stood down last month and attacks on security forces have escalated since new President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged, during his inauguration speech, to eradicate Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda and their local affiliates have launched near daily attacks on security forces and police in Abyan, as well as the provinces of Bayda, Shabwa and Hadramawt in the south and east of the country.