The recently-released audio recording by a man claiming to be Said Al-Shehri, previously thought to have been killed in an American drone strike, represented a brazen show of strength – one designed to show that there is an Al-Qaeda presence on the ground in Yemen despite continuous reports of losses by the terrorist organization. From the sound of the voice on the recording, it does in fact seem to be Al-Shehri, who had been recognized as Al-Qaeda’s number two man in Yemen, who recorded the message.
The message was clearly intended to draw Muslims’ attention to events in Arab countries, and mainly those countries which took part in the Arab Spring revolutions. Al-Shehri attempted to say that any turmoil in Syria and other countries was the result of American tactics intended to break the countries apart.
Asheri effectively stated that in withdrawing from Abyan, Al-Qaeda left behind an example there of a true Islamic state. In the message, Al-Shehri wanted to convey that people there missed him following his departure.
The recording also shows that while he may have felt comfortable using these words, he was also clearly forgetting the people killed and targeted by the terrorist group. From this, we understand that the message was just a flexing muscles, and also that he is very much aware that he could be a victim of an American drone strike sooner or later, as the battle continues to be waged between Al-Qaeda, the Yemeni government and the United States.
There have been many examples of Al-Qaeda losing individuals from the highest ranks of its leadership, from Pakistan and Somalia to Afghanistan and… yes, Yemen. However, until now, it remains unclear as to whether this phenomenon signals the eventual end of Al-Qaeda – or if it will really just result in further recruitments of ‘jihadis’ ready and willing to fight so-called ‘enemies of Islam’.