Top Salafist Cleric Killed in Yemen’s City of Aden

Cleric's Body Found Disfigured After Anti-ISIS Sermon

Samahan Abdel-Aziz, a high-profile Salafist cleric in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, was found dead today, his body badly disfigured and showing signs of torture, after his reported kidnapping Saturday evening.

An ultra-conservative brand of Sunni Islam, Salafism is the favored movement of most of the major jihadist groups across the world, including both ISIS and al-Qaeda. Not all Salafists are jihadists, however, and Abdel-Aziz was definitely not.

That was almost certainly the problem. On Friday, after two major ISIS attacks, Abdel-Aziz gave a fiery sermon condemning ISIS and al-Qaeda. Just a day later, gunmen came to the mosque looking for him, and that was the last time he was seen alive.

Aden is the temporary capital city of the pro-Saudi faction in Yemen, but the city also has a significant Islamist presence, and security forces have clashed with those groups repeatedly, particularly over control of the ports. Last week, ISIS launched several bombing attacks in Aden.

So far, no group has clazimed credit for killing Abdel-Aziz, but it was almost certainly one of the targets of his sermon.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of