SANAA, Yemen, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Police officials in Yemen captured Said Ali al-Shihri, a top al-Qaida leader, after a high-speed chase in the volatile province of Shabwa, the government said.
A vehicle carrying several officials with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, flipped over when it tried to drive through a checkpoint in the Sylan district of Shabwa. Security officials said all of the passengers were detained, including Said Ali al-Shihri, the second-in-command for AQAP, the Yemen Observer reports.
Shihri was repatriated to Saudi Arabia following his 2007 release from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He traveled to Yemen following the completion of a rehabilitation program and became AQAP's deputy leader in 2008.
AQAP emerged as a new front in the global effort to tackle Islamic extremists following its claim of responsibility for the failed bombing of a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day.
U.S. military officials have pledged to help Yemen tackle the security challenge posed by al-Qaida, though the government in Sanaa maintains it can take on the threat on its own.
The government claimed a series of victories against AQAP in recent days. Sanaa last week said it was attempting to negotiate the surrender of U.S.-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an influential leader tied to the would-be Christmas Day bomber and others.
Yemen said in a weekend statement it would not end its fight against al-Qaida until the group is eradicated or all of its members surrender.
"The war the government is launching against al-Qaida is not a war on behalf of any other country, but to defend its supreme interests," the statement added.