Yemen's Al-Qaeda denies death of media chief

AFP , Sunday 30 Oct 2011

Al-Qaeda in Yemen has denied official reports that its media chief was killed in a US drone strike early in October

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula denied Sunday the death of its media chief in a suspected US drone strike earlier this month, a statement distributed to the public in Yemen's southern Shabwa province said.

Yemen's Defence Ministry announced 15 October that Ibrahim Al-Banna was among at least seven militants killed in a triple raid that also claimed the life of the teenage son of slain US-born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaqi.

The ministry at the time said Al-Banna, who was in charge of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's media arm, was wanted "internationally for planning attacks both inside and outside Yemen" and was considered one of the group's "most dangerous operatives".

Al-Qaeda's Sunday statement said the ministry's claims about Al-Banna's death were all "lies".

"These lies and allegations announced by the government ... are not unusual ... the government has falsely declared the death of mujahedeens many times," the statement said.

Also in the statement, the militant network claimed responsibility for a 15 October attack on a gas pipeline in Yemen's restive southeastern provinces.

Local officials had said that the pipeline was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in an attack that forced a temporary suspension of gas exports from the Balhaf Terminal on the Gulf of Aden.

The damaged segment of the 320-kilometre (200 miles) gas pipeline, which links fields in the eastern Marib province with Balhaf, the primary gas terminal in the southern province of Shabwa, was restored last week.

Both provinces are strongholds of Al-Qaeda, where militants have strengthened their hold on several cities in the wake of the nine-month uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose weakened government has lost control over several regions in the country.

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