Al-Shihri’s death is considered a major blow to al-Qaida’s Yemen branch, known as al-Qaida in The Arabian Peninsula. Washington considers it the most dangerous of the group’s offshoots.
Al-Qaida in Yemen has been linked to several attempted attacks on U.S. targets, including the foiled Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airliner over Detroit and explosives-laden parcels intercepted aboard cargo flights last year.
In 2011, a high-profile U.S. drone strike killed U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including the attempt to down a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and the plot to bomb cargo planes in 2010.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, has fallen into lawlessness during a yearlong uprising starting in 2011, when millions of Yemenis took to the streets demanding the ouster of their longtime authoritarian ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Al-Qaida militants exploited the unrest and took control of large swaths of land in the south until last spring, when the military, backed by the U.S., managed to drive hundreds of militants out of major cities and towns.
Since then, the group has carried out deadly attacks targeting mostly security and military officials, including suicide bombings that targeted military and security compounds.