Execution of ‘spies’ reported in Yemen
Witnesses say two were accused of aiding in the killing of leader of Al Qaeda branch.
SANA, Yemen — The retribution was gruesome — and not long in coming.
A day after Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen confirmed the death of a former senior lieutenant of Osama bin Laden in an apparent U.S. drone strike, online images surfaced of two accused “spies,” and two bodies subsequently were shown hanging from concrete overpasses.
Witnesses in the southern Yemeni city of Mukalla, which is under the control of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, said two men were shot in public after being denounced for providing information that led to the death of Nasir Abdel-Karim Wahishi. He was described as Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader worldwide and was head of the organization’s Yemen franchise.
In photographs posted Wednesday on social media and Yemeni news sites, two men were pictured on a beach, one kneeling with his head down and the other seated cross-legged, appearing to argue with his captors. Photographs posted later showed two corpses splayed crucifixion-style and hanging from overpasses.
It could not immediately be established whether the photos depicted the same men.
One of the executed men was identified online by Al Qaeda loyalists as a Saudi citizen, and the second was believed to be Saudi as well, the Associated Press reported.
The Al Qaeda organization in Yemen, one of the group’s most feared and lethal branches, announced Wahishi’s “martyrdom” Tuesday, days after the strike that killed him. The White House confirmed his death, calling Wahishi an “experienced terrorist leader.”
The port city of Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth-largest, fell to Al Qaeda in April amid chaotic fighting elsewhere in the country between Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels and forces loyal to exiled President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
Al Qaeda quickly announced the appointment of a replacement for Wahishi, identified as Qasim Raimi, according to extremist forums.
A Yemeni expert on Islamist groups, Saeed Obaid Jamhi, said the highly public executions of suspected spies probably was seen as a means of retaining the organization’s prestige. He predicted that major attacks also would be attempted to avenge Wahishi’s death.
Elsewhere in Yemen, medical officials said airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore Hadi to power struck a civilian convoy outside the port city of Aden, killing more than 30 people.
And at dusk, at least three explosions shook the capital, Sana, apparently targeting mosques and causing an undetermined number of casualties.
SMOKE RISES above a neighborhood in Sana, the Yemeni capital. Suicide bombers reportedly targeted mosques frequented by Houthi supporters.