by Murad al-Awasi
ADEN, Yemen, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni senior military officials confirmed the killing of Saeed Ali al-Shihri, the second- in-command of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula ( AQAP), along with six other terrorists, in an army raid in southeastern province of Hadramout Monday.
Al-Shihri, a Saudi national and al-Qaida's number two man, was the target of a well-planned army raid against a hideout of al- Qaida in a desert region of the southeastern Hadramout province Monday morning, the Yemeni military officials told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The unidentified officials confirmed that al-Shihri had been killed along with six other al-Qaida members.
Earlier on Monday, Yemen's defense ministry said its armed forces killed al-Shihri in a raid in Hadramout.
Elite units of the Yemeni armed forces shelled a compound, where a squad of al-Qaida militants reportedly had gathered for a meeting.
An intelligence officer told Xinhua anonymously that al-Shihri' s death will dealt a heavy blow to the al-Qaida wing, which has lost a string of top leaders at the hands of the U.S. drone strikes earlier this year.
The AQAP has yet issued a statement to confirm al-Shihri's death.
Al-Shihri had served a prison term in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamu before he was deported to the Saudi Arabia, where he fled to Yemen along with other hundreds of Saudi wanted militants to join the AQAP.
The AQAP, known locally as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), took advantage of the last year political upheaval to take over several towns in the country's southern restive regions.
The militants were recently either captured or killed by the Yemeni security authorities after a U.S.-backed offensive launched in the southern Abyan province three months ago routed the militants out of their strongholds that they had controlled for nearly a year.
However, local military and anti-terrorism experts said the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch is still posing a major threat to the impoverished Arab country despite its being driven out of its main bastions by the U.S.-backed military operations.
The United states and neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia have beefed up anti-terror cooperation with the Yemeni government since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, after a year of political upheaval that allowed the AQAP to capture several cities in southern Yemen.
Yemen's southern and eastern provinces most frequently witness increasing U.S. drone strikes targeting al-Qaida militants.
Combating al-Qaida network in Yemen remains one of the biggest challenges confronting Hadi, who has promised to reform the army, restore security and uproot the resurgent AQAP.