An audio recording claiming to be from Al Qaeda's second-in-command in Yemen, Said al-Shihri, has surfaced on the internet, denying reports that he was killed by government forces last month.
In the message, the man claiming to be Saudi-born al-Shihri said reports of his death in a US drone strike were a "rumor to cover up the killing of innocent Muslim civilians," the Associated Press reported.
"The Yemeni government didn't stop claiming responsibility for the killing of innocent Muslims in Al-Bayda (in south Yemen) on behalf of America, and when it saw that the people weren't tricked by this lie, they brought in another lie in order to hide the issue, which is the killing of Said al-Shihri," he said, according to Agence France Presse.
The US-based SITE Intelligence Group found the voice recording, which was posted on jihadist websites on Sunday.
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The Yemeni defense ministry had claimed al-Shihri was killed in a raid in the eastern province of Hadramawt on Sept. 10, AFP noted.
The ministry said at the time that six other terrorists with al-Shihri were also killed, dealing a blow to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
A seperate report claimed that al-Shihri was killed in a US drone strike, although US officials declined to comment on the report.
Al Qaeda never confirmed his death, and Saudi Arabia said it could not confirm that he was killed in the attack last month.
Yemen Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa's media advisor Rajeh Bady told Reuters that the recording "seemed authentic." He said, "From start we had doubts that Shihri was killed and we became sure later on that he was still alive."
Reuters reported that Shihri was freed from Guantanamo Bay by US authorities in 2007 and put through a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia, only to resurface and become second-in-command of AQAP in Yemen.
AFP noted that Shihri escaped death in September last year, when US drone strikes hit an Al Qaeda stronghold in the southern Abyan province.
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