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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid