News / Middle East

Al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula Comes Into Its Own

A suspicious package originating in Yemen containing a toner cartridge with wires and powder was found during routine screening of air cargo in the United Kingdom, prompting authorities to scour three planes and a truck in the United States. U.S. official
A suspicious package originating in Yemen containing a toner cartridge with wires and powder was found during routine screening of air cargo in the United Kingdom, prompting authorities to scour three planes and a truck in the United States. U.S. official

The U.S.-bound parcel bombs that were recently intercepted in Europe and the Middle East were sent from Yemen.  The working assumption of intelligence agencies is that the devices were manufactured and dispatched by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot or franchise of the original al-Qaida.

The ties between Osama bin Laden's original al-Qaida, now believed hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas, and the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, are assumed to be strong.  AQAP's leader, Nasser al Wahayshi, was once an aide to bin Laden in Afghanistan, and the Saudi-born bin Laden has spoken of his family's roots in Yemen.  One of the original al-Qaida's early headline-creating successes was the suicide attack in 2000 on the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole while it was docked in the Yemeni port of Aden, which killed 17 American sailors.

But most analysts believe that AQAP conceives and carries out attacks on its own.  Former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats Glenn Carle says Osama bin Laden inspires, but does not order, his brethren in Yemen.

"Are they centrally controlled by Osama bin Laden, wherever he is? I think the answer is, no.  Are they inspired by him?  Clearly the answer is, yes.  Do they receive general operational guidance? Probably in some ways they do.  That's long been the case, but it generally amounts to, 'yes, brother, go with Allah and do this good job and you have my blessing.'  There might be some [logistical] support, generally not too much," Carle states.

Like some other al-Qaida branches or offshoots, AQAP originated in the ranks of mujahedin veterans of the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.  They operated out of both Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  But beginning in 2003 Saudi authorities cracked down on al-Qaida, and many of the Saudi al-Qaida fled across the southern border to Yemen, where civil unrest and large areas of ungoverned territory gave them a hospitable haven.  

In January 2009, the Saudi and Yemeni branches officially merged, under the name Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The Yemeni government started its own crackdown on the jihadist movement, in part because of U.S. urging, culminating in an open declaration of war on AQAP in July.

Former U.S. Homeland Security Intelligence Chief Charles Allen, a 47-year-veteran of the CIA, says AQAP is gathering strength.

"Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is now starting to really flourish," Allens said. "It's been regaining strength over the last two years.  When I was undersecretary [for intelligence] at Homeland Security we were concerned about a resurgence of Al-Qaida in Yemen, particularly because we saw Anwar al-Alawki really appealing to North Americans and to West Europeans through his messaging and preaching violent attacks against the West and against the United States."

Al-Alawki is an Yemeni-American, born in the U.S. state of New Mexico and educated at American universities.  He is considered by counterterrorism officials to be a senior recruiter and spiritual motivator for AQAP, especially to English-speaking jihadists.  He started an English-language jihadist magazine called Inspire, the first issue of which carried an article entitled Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.

Alleged Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hassan was in email contact with al-Alawki before the army officer opened fire at the base on Nov. 5 of last year, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others.  Intelligence officials have said al-Alawki also recruited and trained Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, who attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit on December 25, 2009.  Although he has not been apprehended, Al-Awlaki is now on trial in absentia in Yemen on terrorism charges.

Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the FBI's National Security Branch, says the latest parcel bomb plot shows that AQAP is resilient and resourceful, able to change tactics as Western societies adapt to terrorist threats.

"The range of vulnerabilities in an open society is remarkable. So I think there is ingenuity," Mudd said. "But if you sat down with a cup of coffee and said, look at all these options we have, let's spend a month or two finding a couple that nobody has thought of, it doesn't take a rocket scientist in an open society to come up with ways that that society might be vulnerable."

AQAP also has at least one highly skilled bombmaker in its ranks, identified as Ibrahim al-Asiri.  Counterterrorism officials are focused on him as the most likely designer and maker of the parcel bombs hidden in computer printer toner cartridges, as well as the underwear bomb carried by Abdulmutallab last December 25.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid