Claimed Arrested, Yemeni al-Qaeda Leader Appears in Video

Officials speculate it could be someone else

Last week, the UN announced that the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Khalid Batarfi, was arrested and his deputy leader was killed. This week, he emerged a lot less under arrest than officials prefer to believe.

Batarfi appeared in a video addressing the January 6 riot at the US capital, saying it was “only the tip of the iceberg.” Batarfi being involved is noteworthy because he was supposed still under arrest.

Local tribal leaders say they believe Batarfi was never arrested, but that it was someone else from AQAP who kind of looked like him, and who they assume was also a “senior” member.

It’s not clear how big of a deal it is operationally, as Batarfi has only been leader AQAP for about a year, so he’s hardly the sort of entrenched leadership figure whose ouster would be a game-changer.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.