The 21st Century Phenomenon



The name Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was used by Yusef al-Ayeri, the first commander of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, who was directed by Al Qaeda’s leadership from Afghanistan. The first attacks of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, in 2003, were committed under the name of Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula. Yusef al-Ayeri himself was killed, in mid 2003, in a shootout with the Saudi security forces.

After operation Absolute Justice in Afghanistan, in late 2001, and the growing isolation of the traditional Al Qaeda leadership in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the leadership of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia filled the vacuum by directing itself independently. The group was actually dismantled by the Saudi forces by the beginning of 2006 after a series of successes to kill and arrest almost all of the group activists and through the 2004-Leniency program.

In late 2006 USA released a number of about 10 of Guantanamo inmates to Saudi Arabia, also known as the “Batch 10” . Among them Muhammad Attik al-Harbi, who became later the head of the newly formed Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula; Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shihri (no 372 in Guantanamo), who became his deputy, and Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi (no 333)(see – Ex-Gitmo footage). They went in Saudi Arabia through a rehabilitation program which included also involvement of the extended family elders and Imams, who took responsibility on the “good behavior” of the detainees after their release. It proved itself very powerful in Saudi Arabia and after their full release they moved to Yemen in order to avoid the Saudi inspection including the inspection of their own relatives and family members In mid 2009 Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi returned to Saudi Arabia and surrendered to the authorities, probably under heavy pressure from his family.

Two others returnees from Batch 10 – Murtadha Ali Saeed Magram and Turki Meshawi Zayid al-Assiri – are still at large in Yemen and on the Saudi 83 Wanted List.

In Yemen the ex-Gitmo inmates, who were treated as heroes because of their Gitmo background, joined, in 2008, a large group of Saudi Al Qaeda fugitives, remnants of the local Al Qaeda cells and the spiritual leadership of Anwar al-Awlaki and together they had the experience and the capacity to revive Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula. The newly formed group orchestrated the US embassy attack in Sanaa, on 09/17/2008 (see – Sanaa 09.17.08 ).

In 01/2009 they officially enounced, through Jihadi websites, the emerging of Al Qaeda in Yemen, which was more of an ephemeral group at that time, with Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula under the leadership of Nasser al-Wehaishi, the actual dominant figure in the group, and Qassim al-Raimi.

Unlike the original organization, which was focused on the Saudi regime, the new Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula has international aspirations. The group shows growing sophistication and creativity in tracking down, through various means including the internet, lonely people with growing frustration because of their conflict between their Islamic believes and the Western society where they live, such as Maj. Malik Hasan or Umar Abdulmutallab. They found new ways to by-pass technological measures in order to smuggle explosives and suicide bombers to the most protected targets. They sent, on 08/27/2009, Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Asiri, 23, to kill Prince Muhammad bin Nayef by hiding the explosives inside his body packed in condoms and detonate them with a cell phone signal (see – Jeddah 08.27.09). Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula planned and conducted the Northwest Flight-253 attack (the Christmas terror plot), on 12/25/2009, in which explosive powder of about 80gr was smuggled into the aircraft in a plastic bag stitched in the underwear of Umar Abdulmutallab.

No Doubt that Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula in its new form became nowadays (12/2009) a major threat to the Western World with the potential to revive Al Qaeda and to replace the original leadership isolated in the Afghan/Pakistani Mountains.

* In a successful UAV missiles attack on Friday 09/30/2011, American managed to kill in one strike Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir-Khan and the bomb expert Ibrahim H. al-Asiri and by that, actually, to decapitate AQAP all international aspirations.

* While the name Al Qaeda reflects international aspirations of their leaders like Anwar al-Awlaki. After the death or arrests of the foreign leaders, many of them Saudis, in the years 2010-11, local leaders, especially in the rebellious provinces of Abyan and Shabwan. use to call themselves Ansar Al-Sharia (the soldiers of Islamic law) which emphasizes local aspirations.

** Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP confirmed, ON 07/17/2013, the death of Said Al-Azdi al-Shihri in US drone strike, but gives no date for killing. 


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