Yemen army captures Houthi leader, 8 Hezbollah members in Saada

A Yemeni fighter from the Amalqa Brigades stands pointing a Kalashnikov assault rifle towards a crossed-out plastered poster of the Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018

Yemen army captures Houthi leader, 8 Hezbollah members in Saada

  • Forces carried out an operation that captured the leader of the militia along with eight military experts from Hezbollah
  • The commander of the third brigade said the battles lasted a week in Mount al-Ruqi and surrounding areas

RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition battling rebels in Yemen on Monday said its forces killed eight members of Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah in an air strike in northern Yemen, near the Saudi border.
“The coalition killed 41 terrorist elements in Maran and destroyed their vehicles and equipment. Among the dead were eight members of Lebanese Hezbollah, including a commander,” coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said in a statement, without offering details on how the fighters were killed.
Maran is in Saada province, a stronghold of Yemen’s Houthi rebels who are backed by Iran.
It was the first official announcement by the coalition of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters being killed in Yemen although Al-Maliki told AFP it was “not the first time.”
Hezbollah did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment on the claim.
The coalition has frequently accused Iran of providing weapons to the Houthis, namely ballistic missiles that have targeted the kingdom with increasing frequency.
Iran, also a backer of Hezbollah, has repeatedly denied arming the Houthis.
At press conference in Riyadh, Al-Maliki said the Hezbollah fighters were part of a group heading to the Saudi border when they were spotted by their surveillance network.
“Terrorist members... from Hezbollah and from the Iranian regime are coming to help the rebels launch ballistic missiles and train them in combat,” he said.
“Both Iran and... Hezbollah must stop sending military experts to Yemen.”
In a November interview with CNN, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir accused Hezbollah of firing a missile provided by Iran at the kingdom from Yemeni territory. Hezbollah denied that claim.
Monday’s announcement comes as Yemeni pro-government forces are locked in heavy battles with Houthi rebels as they press an offensive backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to retake the key aid hub of Hodeida.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths, who held talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa last week to avoid military confrontation in Hodeida, is set to visit the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Meanwhile the commander of the third brigade, Major General Abdul Karim Al-Sudai said the battles lasted a week in Mount al-Ruqi and surrounding areas.

He pointed out that the Arab coalition fighters supported the army during the operations and bombed militia positions.


New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

Updated 18 September 2020

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

  • CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.