Who is Khalid Saeed Al Batarfi, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s new leader?

Batarfi has risen through the ranks of Al Qaeda for over 20 years

(FILES) A file image grab taken on June 16, 2015 from a video released by Al-Malahem Media, the media arm of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), shows Khaled Omar Batarfi (also known as Abu Meqdad al-Kindi) a spokesman for AQAP in a video posted online on June 15, 2015. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has confirmed on February 23, 2020 the death of its leader Qassim al-Rimi and appointed a successor, the SITE monitor. The announcement came in an audio speech delivered by AQAP religious official Hamid bin Hamoud al-Tamimi, said SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist networks worldwide. "In his speech, Tamimi spoke at length about Rimi and his jihadi journey, and stated that Khalid bin Umar Batarfi is the new leader of AQAP," it said. / AFP / AL-MALAHEM MEDIA / -
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Just hours after the death of leader Qasim Al Rimi, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula named his successor, Khalid Saeed Al Batarfi.

Also known as Abu Al Miqdad Al Kindi, the Saudi Arabian militant is a senior member of Aqap in Yemen’s Hadramout province and served on Aqap’s shura council.

Batarfi has been a member of Al Qaeda for over 20 years. He began his journey with the group in Afghanistan in 1999, training at the Al Farouq camp before fighting alongside the Taliban during the 2001 US invasion.

Little is known about his childhood in Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, Batarfi took up the cause of Aqap in Yemen, leading fighters in taking over the country’s southern Abyan Province. He was later named Aqap’s emir of Abyan following the death of Aqap leader Nasir Al Wuhayshi”

Batarfi also spent a spell in prison with his Aqap comrades. He served 4 years in Al Mukalla central prison until Aqap forces swept through the city in April 2015 and set a number of senior Aqap members free, including Batarfi, a security source in Al-Mukalla told The National.

His actions in Yemen earned the interest of the US. In June 2016, following a US strike on Aqap targets in Yemen, Batarfi promised retribution, warning that Al Qaeda would destroy the US economy and attack other US interests.

Prior to a decision to step back from the limelight in 2017, Batarfi had featured prominently in Aqap propaganda videos, offering religious guidance. In a 20-part series Stories from the Prophets released in early 2017 he gave lessons on everything from good parenting to fighting oppression over 20 episodes.

After the United States announced that it would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Batarfi appeared in an Aqap video in January 2018, threatening the United States and the Jewish people.

The provocation finally led to action from the US. On January 23, 2018, the US Department of State designated Batarfi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

In February 2020 Batarfi was named as Aqap new leader in the Arab peninsula succeeding Al Reimi whose death was confirmed by Al Qaeda.

Yemeni and foreign analysts consider Khalid Batarfi a strong choice for leadership of the group. His history of religious leadership in the group could revive its core ideology, which has suffered from fragmentation as the Yemeni civil war rages on.