An airstrike in the Yemeni province of Shabwa killed Ibrahim al-Banna, the media chief of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and six others, including Anwar al-Awlaki's 21-year-old son Rahman al-Awlaki, the Yemeni Department of Defence announced on Saturday (October 15th).
In a statement published on its website, the ministry said "Yemeni security services were able to conduct a successful operation at 9:30 Friday night against the terrorist Ibrahim Mohamed Saleh al-Banna (Egyptian) and six other terrorist elements accompanying him in the Azzan area of Shabwa province."
The Ministry described al-Banna as "the most dangerous al-Qaeda element on the international wanted list", and in charge of the media arm of AQAP. He was wanted for several cases of terrorism against national and foreign interests, and had participated in the planning of terrorist operations inside and outside Yemen.
"The successful operation conducted by the army that resulted in the death of al-Banna is proof that Yemen is fighting al-Qaeda, primarily because doing so is necessary and in the national interest, as Yemen has been directly harmed by al-Qaeda's terrorist operations," said Abdo al-Janadi, Deputy Minister of Information and Yemeni government spokesman.
Al-Janadi told al-Shorfa that the airstrike also killed the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who died late last month in an air strike that targeted him and his companions in an area between the provinces of Mareb and al-Jawf, east of Sanaa.
Colonel Dr. Muhammad al-Qaedi, official spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said al-Qaeda has been dealt devastating and crushing blows with the deaths of many of its key leaders.
Despite Yemen's political crisis, al-Qaedi said that "the government has treated the cause of the war on terrorism as a separate and continuous undertaking, as evidenced by the killing of al-Awlaki and al-Banna, and the battles being waged by security and military forces in their pursuit of terrorists in multiple areas of Yemen".
"Al-Qaeda cannot be eliminated overnight. However, the blows it sustained recently will serve to weaken it significantly," al-Qaedi said.
Dr. Said al-Jamhi, President of Al-Jamhi Centre for Studies and Research and a researcher specialising in al-Qaeda, said al-Banna was an important member of AQAP.
"Ibrahim al-Banna was a key leader in the al-Qaeda organisation with vast and extensive experience through his work in Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in Yemen, and had strong relationships with leaders of the organisation in Mesopotamia, such as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri."
Al-Jamhi said that al-Banna was one of the leaders who worked alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and more recently was in charge of the media arm of AQAP.
"Al-Qaeda's military and media [cadre] losses are mounting. Al-Banna was a field commander characterised by his charisma and persuasion skills. Consequently, his death represents a huge loss for al-Qaeda."
Al-Jamhi said that al-Qaeda is on the verge of collapse as a consequence of the demise of many of its leaders, stressing that "sustaining these operations and continuing to target the organisation's key leaders will hasten its collapse".
He also said that the organisation would quickly promote second tier leaders to top positions in order to fill gaps in leadership.
"However, the leaders who were killed were the real strength of the organisation, having joined it a long time ago and worked alongside its senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, for many years. Thus, the newly promoted leaders will lack their expertise and tactical prowess."