Some AQAP members have accused Omar Al-Nadhi and Batarfi himself of working with US intelligence to kill Qassim Al-Raimi
Disputes arise within AQAP ranks amid naming of a new emir
“Major differences” have emerged within the ranks of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the weeks leading up to the naming of Khaled Batarfi as the terrorist group’s new emir, a source familiar with AQAP’s internal operations in Yemen told Almasdar Online.
Batarfi’s appointment on Sunday comes nearly a month after Qassim Al-Raimi, who led the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda franchise for three years, was killed in a US drone strike on Jan. 29.
The statement announcing Batarfi’s appointment suggested that the choice of Batarfi was not unanimous because “the pursuit of enemy drones targeting the mujahideen (AQAP fighters)” made it difficult to gather the opinions of all of its decision-makers throughout Yemen.
The emerging differences within the group’s ranks involve accusations by AQAP leaders in Al-Baydha governorate and other areas that Omar Al-Nahdi, a Hadhrami AQAP member close to Batarfi, worked with U.S. intelligence to lure Al-Raimi out of his hiding place in Al-Baydha a week before an American drone strike killed him there.
Batarfi, who was previously a leader of AQAP’s operations in Hadhramout, broke into the presidential palace in the governorate’s capital of Mukalla in 2015. A photograph of him standing on the Yemeni flag inside the palace was widely circulated.
The accusations of Al-Nahdi working with American intelligence to eliminate Al-Raimi have even spread to Batarfi himself, the source said. Whether there's any truth to the allegations remains unclear, but they suggest potentially explosive divisions within AQAP at an important new juncture for the group.
Some of the group’s leaders are demanding a trial of Al-Nahdi on this charge.
Batarfi, nicknamed Abu Al-Meqdad Al-Kindi, led Al-Qaeda’s takeover of Abyan governorate in early 2011. In March of that year, Yemeni security forces arrested the Saudi-born AQAP member. In 2015, Al-Qaeda-affiliated gunmen attacked Mukalla prison where he was being held, leading to his release along with about 270 other prisoners.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of State listed Batarfi as a specially designated global terrorist.