ATbar Al-Qaeda in Yemen – Evolving Threats
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Al-Qaeda in Yemen – Evolving Threats

03/05/2010 | by Sheldon, Danielle  
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has been gaining in strength since its reestablishment in 2006 and particularly since it merged with Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia to become Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2009. With reputable Jihadi leaders, access to funds, ties to terrorist organizations abroad, and abilities to perpetrate attacks outside of Yemen, the organization has thrived into a force that must be reckoned with. With the Yemeni state losing control over its territory, it must continue to take strong action against the organization or risk failure as a state. 

Background 1990-2009:

The government of Yemen has always had difficulties ruling over its territory. On May 22, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was established following the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR, North Yemen) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY, South Yemen). Prior to unification, relations between the two states had been tense, including sporadic border clashes.[1] Unification, however, did not suddenly remove all the hostility that had been present for the forty years prior. In May 1994, a civil war erupted, lasting until July 7, 1994.[2] The south declared itself the Democratic Republic of Yemen, seceding from the unified Republic of Yemen in May. The north put down the secession, restored order and the union, and granted a general amnesty, save for 16 people. Due to the country's history of civil war, as well as its militant tribal culture, the population is heavily armed; “Yemen has 60 million weapons and a population of 22 million people.” In addition, there is well-known smuggling that occurs between Yemen and Somalia, both of arms and people (i.e. Mujahideen, not slaves).[3] Moreover, Yemen is having difficulties addressing many issues, including those of demography, access to education and health care, a troubled economy, and a decrease in the country’s natural resources, including oil, natural gas,[4] and water, along with “porous borders, insufficient maritime security” and a return of Yemenis from Jihadi arenas throughout the world.[5]

a. Shi’ites

The Zaydi Shi’ites, located primarily in the North-Western region of Yemen, have also had a difficult relationship with the government of the Republic of Yemen. The Shi’ites ruled a part of Yemen known as the Mutawakiliat Kingdom from 1911 to 1962.[6] The background to the present conflict also includes the proselytizing of the Wahabi form of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia, and the appearance of Yemeni governmental support for the proselytizing.[7]

b. Tribal Politics

The power of the tribe is fundamental to Yemeni politics:
“Neither the state nor the tribes possess absolute power in the Republic of Yemen. The government must build alliances with tribes to ensure its survival, but it is also threatened by the power that it cedes to those alliances and so works to undermine the tribal power where possible. Yemen’s central government is weak, particularly outside urban centers where it does not always exercise unambiguous sovereignty, and Yemen’s tribes affect considerably the regime’s calculations.”[8]

The government-tribal relationship is neo-patrimonial in nature, consisting of patron-client relations.[9] Tribes function both as traditional social structures, as well as political parties and partisan groups.[10] The tribes, which serve as an element of social identity, deeply mistrust the central government.[11] In fact, state law is “considered largely ineffectual, and somehow antagonistic to tribal traditions, and therefore often scorned or ignored.” [12]

Yemen is composed of numerous tribes, many of which are members of tribal confederacies. The two largest confederacies are the Hashid Tribal Confederacy (the strongest of the two) and the Bakil Tribal Confederacy.[13] President Salih is of the Sanhan tribe, which is a member of the Hashid Tribal Confederacy.[14] An example of intertwined tribal-state politics is that of the “Islah” party. Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar was the head of a tribe, and at the time, the head of the Hashid Tribal Confederacy.[15] He founded the “Islah” Party, which is meant to represent both tribal and Islamic interests,[16] such as implementing sharia law in Yemen.[17] He served as speaker of the Yemeni Parliament. His position, as head of the tribe and the party, was taken over by his son, Hamid al-Ahmar, upon his death in 2007. [18]

c. Terrorist Organizations

Throughout this period there were three terrorist organizations active in Yemen. The first organization was the Islamic Army of Aden, also known as the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan (IAAA). The organization was founded in the early 1990s. Its goals were to overthrow the Yemeni government, establish an Islamic Yemen that adheres to Sharia law, and expel all Western interests and westerners from the country. Founded by al-Hassan, the organization was led by Khalid Abd al-Nabi as of 2003. It was composed of many alumni of the Afghani Jihad movement against the Soviets.[19] The group maintained training camps in the mountains of the Abyan province.[20] The Islamic Army of Aden was one of the organizations believed responsible for the April 19, 2000 attack on the USS Cole. [21]

The second organization was the Yemeni Islamic Jihad, which surfaced during the 1990s. The organization’s goals included:

“The establishment of Sharia law in Yemen, the support of the Palestinian struggle against Israel, an end to western intervention in the Middle East (including the removal of foreign military, commercial, and civilian presences from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Middle East), and combat against the ‘enemies’ of Islam, namely Israel, the United States, and the West in general.”[22]

Sponsored by Bin Laden, the group was comprised of both Yemeni and other alumni of the Afghani Jihad against the Soviets, including Egyptians, Algerians, Saudis, and other Middle Easterners. Many of these individuals joined Tariq al-Fasdli, who returned to Yemen to fight the socialist insurgents in South Yemen in 1994. After leaving the group, Al-Fasdli and a few others then joined Salih’s government. The organization was, supposedly, involved in two terrorist attacks. The first attack was the 1992 bombing of two hotels hosting U.S. troops on their way to Somalia. The second attack was the 1995 attempted assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak.[23]

The third organization was Al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQY). AQY was formed sometime in the 1990s. It was led by Ali al-Harithi, who was assassinated by a CIA drone in 2002.[24] Al-Harithi was replaced by Muhammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, who was arrested in 2003. [25] With most of AQY's leadership incarcerated or killed, the organization appears to have collapsed, with many of its members joining the Jihad in Iraq.[26] Al-Qaeda in Yemen is most famously known for its responsibility in planning the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.[27]

Preface:

Al-Qaeda is a nomadic organization, termed a “nomadic war machine.”[28] As an organization, it travels from place to place, establishes itself in failed states, and functions under an unclear hierarchical system. Yemen fits this general pattern in the emerging situation. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has exploited local tribes to provide bases of activity and havens.[29] Moreover, much of the leadership is “fugitive” – alumni of the Jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets, with Jihad experience. In addition, it is likely that should the situation for al-Qaeda continue to deteriorate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the leadership may be inclined to leave and will likely take up residence among the most active and successful of the al-Qaeda affiliate organizations, such as in Yemen with AQAP.

Introduction:

The power structures of Yemen can be broken down into four arenas. First, is the central government, which is controlled by President Salih. The central government is plagued by three distinctive threats to the regime, each of which comprises its own arena. The second arena and the first threat to the Yemeni government is the Shi’ite insurgency in the North. The third arena, and the second threat to the Yemeni regime, is the secessionist movement in the South. The fourth arena, and last threat to the central government, is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Qaeda’s activities against Yemen have been increasing. Moreover, al-Qaeda linked preachers have been spreading the message of global Jihad throughout the world.

Central Government:

The present day Republic of Yemen was formed in 1990, when the former northern Yemen Arab Republic and the southern People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen merged.[30] The official capital is Sana’a, the previous capital of the Yemen Arab Republic. The ruling political party of Yemen, to which all of Yemen’s “movers and shakers” belong, is the GPC (General People’s Congress). The head of the government is the Prime Minister, Ali Muhammed Mujawwar.[31] Yet, in truth, the majority of the power appears to reside within the executive branch, led by President Ali Abdullah Salih, who has been president since the unification of the country. [32] Salih was previously the president of the Yemen Arab Republic, having taken power in 1978 as part of a military coup.[33] His Vice President is Major General Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi.[34]

It would appear that the government enjoys fairly widespread popular support, given that in 2006, Salih was reelected with over 90 percent of the vote.[35] Elections in Yemen, as in most of the Arab world, ought to be viewed more as a poll of confidence rather than a true election. Nonetheless, if taken in this light, an over 90% vote of confidence is quite an approval rating. This being said, corruption is widespread throughout the country, on what seems to be all levels, including bribery, impunity, “the abuse of public office for private gain… patronage, [and] the diversion of state resources to seek political quiescence.”[36]

The Yemeni government is a demonstration of nepotism in action. The government is, for all intents and purposes, controlled by Salih and his family. His son, Ahmed Salih, is the head of the Yemen Republican Guard, as well as the head of Special Forces. In addition, he is his father’s pick to inherit the presidency. Salih’s nephew, Amar Salih, is the Deputy Director for National Security. Another nephew, Yehye Salih, is the head of Central Security Forces, as well as the head of the Counter-Terrorism Unit. Yet another nephew, Tarik Salih, is the head of the Presidential Guard. Further, his half-brother is the head of Yemen’s Air Force.[37]

Salih’s government is allied with the United States in the "War against Terrorism." The Yemeni government’s counter-terrorism efforts include arrests, computerizing “passports and [the] immigration process,” deporting illegal immigrants, and “programs to monitor mosques and Islamic organizations, in addition to launching a public relations campaign urging clerics to purge extremism and warning the public of terrorism's cost to the economy.”[38] The Yemeni government has also cooperated with the American government on various counter-terrorism activities, particularly following the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole and the French oil tanker Limburg. One such example is the CIA attack in which Hellfire missiles were fired from a Predator drone[39] on al-Qaeda in Yemen operatives on November 5, 2002, resulting in the death of Al-Qaeda in Yemen’s leader, Abu Ali al-Harithi.[40] When this event became publicized by the Pentagon though, Yemen became less cooperative.

However, with the government only barely controlling its territory, fighting rebels in the north and secessionists in the south, and with most of its resources diverted to maintain its hegemony, the government is unable, and perhaps unwilling, to allocate the necessary resources to fight the al-Qaeda presence in the country.[41] Moreover, there is an apparent “tacit non-aggression pact” between the Yemeni government and al-Qaeda.[42] Further, Salih’s government has co-opted many terrorists, after having released them from prison in exchange for pledges of loyalty, and has provided them with jobs in the public sector.[43] Additionally, it ought to be noted that, during the 1994 civil war, Salih’s northern government had an alliance with the regional Jihadis to fight the southern Marxists.[44] Furthermore, in early November 2009, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was supposedly given permission to open a training camp in the Abyan province in exchange for providing trained fighters to fight against the Houthi insurgency in the north.[45] Today, Yemen’s policy seems to follow the path of detainment, imprisonment, release, and the granting of amnesty. Nonetheless, the Yemeni government has, over the past three years, conducted a series of raids, arrests, and trials of alleged al-Qaeda affiliates.[46]

The Yemeni economy is in perpetual trouble. The GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) is $55.41 billion, with a GDP at PPP per capita of $2,500.[47] To finance itself, the government relies on financial aid from the U.S. government and the World Bank. In 2005 and 2006, the foreign aid upon which Yemen greatly relied was severely decreased. Yemen was suspended from one of the United States’ government’s programs, losing $20 million in aid from the Millennium Challenge Account. Moreover, the World Bank cut Yemen’s aid by one third, decreasing aid from $420 million to $280 million. With aid having been severely cut, Yemen’s government became even more hard-pressed to fund its activities, even excluding counter-terrorism activities.[48] Most of the Yemeni economy is based on oil sales. Yemen exports 274,400 barrels per day.[49] In order to boost Yemen’s counter-terrorism efforts, the United States gave Yemen $70 million in aid in 2009, after not giving any aid in 2008.[50] Further, Saudi Arabia provided $2 billion last year to compensate for the fall in oil prices[51]

Shi’ite Insurgency

In the mountainous north-western region of the country a Shi’ite uprising against the Yemeni government has taken place. The Zaydi Shi’ites oppose Yemen’s close ties with the United States and wish to restore the Yemeni monarchy.[52] The uprising is led by the “Young Believers” (A-Shabab al-Mu’mineen). Hussain al-Houthi, who was the leader of the Young Believers, served as leader of the uprising until his death in 2004. [53] Hussain al-Houthi’s father, Badr al-Din, then took control of the uprising.[54] Abd al-Malik, the brother of Hussain al-Houthi, took over shortly thereafter. [55]

The original spokesperson of the organization was Abd al-Malik.[56] However, when he took over as leader, the position was filled by Mohammed Abdul Salam. Following the bombing of their media office in the Razza district of Sana’a in 2008, in which Abdul Salam was killed, the sole survivor of the media office, Hamid Badr Eddin al-Houthi, the brother of Abd al-Malik, became the organization’s spokesperson.[57]

The Houthi rebellion is likely backed by Iran,[58] as evident by Yemen’s claim that it seized an Iranian arms ship (Mahan-1) supplying arms to the rebels on October 26, 2009.[59] It is consistent with Iranian strategy to support Shi’ite groups throughout the region, as it has with the Shi’ite Hezbollah (Lebanon) and the Mahdi Army (Iraq). On November 8, 2009, the Houthis shot down a Yemeni fighter-jet using Surface-to-Air Missiles, likely provided by Iran.[60]
In addition the opposition the Houthis face from the Yemeni government, Saudi Arabia has also recently begun to take military action against the insurgents after they began to take up positions within Saudi territory.[61]

Southern Secessionists:

A secessionist movement, based in Aden, is active in Yemen's southern regions. Aden was the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.[62] There have been ongoing protests against the unified Yemeni regime since 1994. The secessionist movement claims that the northern government enforces discriminatory policies, including economic disparities, unpaid pensions to soldiers from the south, arbitrary detention of southerners, political murders of southern leaders, land theft by notables in the north, employment discrimination, military camps and checkpoints throughout the south, and the blocking of internet access to certain pro-southern Yemeni sites by the federal government. [63]

The secessionists are active demonstrators. However, reports of the type of activity vary based on the source of the report. For example, in addition to formal protests with signs and slogans, a noted tactic of the south, according to southern sources, is the closing of highways in South Yemen.[64] However, Yemeni government sources have stated that these protests have included attempts to storm local police stations to release detainees, damaging governmental offices and private property, and setting fire to police cars.[65] The Yemeni government often responds with firing into the crowds of protestors.[66]

The secessionist movement appears to have the support of GPC political figure Tareq al-Fadhli. Al-Fadhli is a former friend of Salih’s, who, during the civil war in 1994, made an alliance with Jihadists to fight the southern socialists. However, it may be important to note that Al-Fadhli also fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s.[67]

The secessionist movement poses a serious threat to the Yemeni government. Most of the federal government’s troops are occupied fighting the Houthi rebellion and are, therefore, not free to deploy to the south. Moreover, while much of Yemen’s onshore oil is located in the Marib and Hadramawt provinces, most of the refining work is performed in Aden.[68] Given that most of Yemen’s economy is based on oil exports, it is essential for the federal government to maintain control over the south. Moreover, the Bab el-Mandeb is located in the south. This strait is extremely strategic as a shipping route, particularly in light of the 3.3 million barrels of oil that pass through the strait daily.[69]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also known as Al-Qaeda of Jihad Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Jazirat al-Arab, Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, and Al-Qaeda in the South Arabian Peninsula, was established in 2007. [70] Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia officially merged into Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in January 2009.[71] Based in Yemen, al-Qaeda presence is the strongest in the Shabwah, Marib, and al Jawf provinces, which together are known as the “Triangle of Evil,” so named for the heavy al-Qaeda presence.[72] The are is believed to host around 500 fighters.[73]

The new AQAP differs from the original Al-Qaeda in Yemen. First, AQAP succeeded in merging the various Jihadi groups in the country into a single organization. Second, the leadership has ties with al-Qaeda core (i.e. to bin Laden and Zawahiri). Third, the organization functions and operates in a manner greatly reminiscent of “a traditionally structured al-Qaeda node.”[74] Fourth, the organization established a Sharia council, and has begun to issue fatwas in their own name (i.e. in the name of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, not as imams or experts on Islamic jurisprudence).[75] Fifth, the organization has shown its “ability to launch multiple attacks in different locations within a short period of time.” Last, it releases a periodical, Sada al-Malahin, which Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula uses for publicity. However, it has also demonstrated structural similarity to other al-Qaeda organizations.[76]

a. AQAP Command (see Appendix A)

The Emir of the organization is Nasir Abd al-Karim al-Wahishi, named in June 2007. An alum of Afghanistan, he is a former secretary of Osama bin Laden and a veteran of Tora Bora.[77] His kunya (honorary Arabic name) is “Abu Basr.”[78] He was part of the 2006 prison break and has led AQAP since its establishment in 2007.[79]

Al-Wahishi’s deputy is Said Ali a-Shihri.[80] His kunya is “Abu Sayyaf al-Shihri.” Born in 1972/3, he trained in a camp in Northern Afghanistan, near Kabul. He was detained by the United States in their Guantanamo Bay facility (identification number 372) and was released in 2007. Following his release, he completed the Saudi Jihadi rehabilitation program before returning to al-Qaeda. He is believed to have been involved in the U.S. embassy bombing in Sana'a on September 16, 2008.[81]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also acquired a mufti, or religious ideologue, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish.[82] Al-Rubaish was born in Buridah, al-Qasm, Saudi Arabia, in 1980. He holds a B.A. in Sharia from Imam Muhammed bin Sa’ud University.[83] He received training in Afghanistan at al-Qaeda’s al-Faruq training camp, and fought in Tora Bora. A former Guantanamo detainee, al-Rubaish graduated from the Saudi rehabilitation course before becoming the mufti of AQAP.[84] He is a fierce critic of the Saudi regime and opposes the West’s involvement in the heartlands of Islam.[85]

The former deputy is Qasim Yahya al-Raymi.[86] However, it would appear that al-Raymi now serves as AQAP’s military commander.[87] He is also known as Qassin al-Taizi. Al-Raymi was born in Taiz in 1979. A former member of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, he was captured in March 2004 and sentenced in August 2004 for planning to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to Yemen and planning attacks on foreign embassies, but escaped in the 2006 prison break. Since then, he has been involved in multiple attacks in Mareb (2006 and 2007).[88]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has five known sub-commanders or influential members. The first commander is Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Rashid.[89] He recently made a controversial statement in which he said that Shi’ites and Iran pose more of a danger to Sunnis than do Christians and Jews.[90]

The second commander is Muhammed Al-Awfi.[91] One of his kunyas is Mohammed Atiq Awyad al-Harbi. Al-Awfi was detained in Guantanamo Bay (identification number 333), but was released in 2007.[92] He was in Saudi custody until he was released in 2008.[93] The third commander was Hamza Salim al-Kuwaiti.[94] He was killed in August 2008.[95] He was involved in both Mareb attacks.[96]

The fourth commander is Abdullah Ahmed al-Raimi, who was arrested in 2008. [97] He is also known as Abdullah al-Kini, since he was born into an expatriate Yemenite community residing in Kenya. His kunya is “Owaiss.” He served as the contact man for the Swiss Cell (2004) and one of the financers/fund raisers for the Riyadh attacks (2003). He was arrested in Qatar and extradited to Yemen, sentenced in 2004.[98] In 2006, he escaped during the prison break.[99] He was recaptured in 2008.[100]

Sayf Mohammed is the AQAP Information Officer[101] and Abu Hurairah is another commander named in various sources.[102] A well-known member of AQAP is Jamal Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi.[103] Born in Yemen on July 22, 1960/1961,[104] he is an alum of the movement in Afghanistan (2001).[105] He headed AQY’s Sana’a cell, where he planned the attack on the U.S.S. Sullivan.[106] He was involved with both the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole and in the 2002 Limburg Attack. [107] He was arrested, escaped, and rearrested in 2003.[108] He too escaped as part of the 2006 prison break.[109] On October 17, 2007, he surrendered to Yemeni authorities.[110]

b. AQAP’s Spiritual Leadership

The spiritual leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, Sheikh Abd al-Majid Zindani, and Imam Anwar Awlaki. Rubaish, who is the official mufti of AQAP. He has religious training, holding a B.A. in Sharia from Imam Muhammed bin Sa’ud University.[111] Zindani is the founder of al-Iman University and a member of the Islah party. Awlaki is a well-known Imam with a popular audio-lecture series. While Zindani and Awlaki may not be official members of AQAP, both men are affiliated with the organization. Moreover, their radical Islamist rhetoric and standing, as well-known members of the Salafi-Jihadi community of believers, provides support for AQAP as an organization, in addition to guiding individuals who later become affiliated with the global Jihadist movement, including John Walker Lindh and Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab.

c. Soldiers’ Brigade of Yemen

The Soldiers’ Brigade of Yemen is either a sub-organization of AQAP or is linked to AQAP in other ways.[112] While it may have been begun as an al-Qaeda offshoot,[113] it appears to work in close association with al-Wahishi’s al-Qaeda core. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula appears to take credit for the attacks of the Soldier Brigade of Yemen, implying that al-Wahishi and/or his offices planned them, or were highly involved in them.

d. AQAP Activities 2006 – 2010 (see Appendix B):

1. The first activity organized by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took place on February 3, 2006. Al-Qaeda organized a prison break in which 22 prisoners escaped.[114] It is believed that members of Yemen’s Political Security Organization may have been involved in the break-out.[115] However, there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that all of the escapees returned to terrorism or that the security officials present were all affiliated with al-Qaeda.

2. On September 15, 2006, AQAP carried out two simultaneous attacks on oil fields in the Mareb and Hadramawt provinces.[116]

3. On March 27, 2007, AQAP assassinated Colonel Ali Mohmoud Qusailah, who was the head of Mareb Province’s Criminal Investigation Division.[117]

4. On July 2, 2007, al-Qaeda carried out a suicide bombing in the Mareb province.[118] The attack killed eight Spanish tourists and their two Yemeni drivers.

5. In January 2008, AQAP operatives killed four Belgian tourists in a shooting in the Hadramawt province.[119]

6. On March 18, 2008, al-Qaeda attempted a mortar attack on the U.S. Embassy. However, the mortar missed the U.S. Embassy and hit a nearby girls' school, injuring several Yemenis. [120]


7. In April 2008, al-Qaeda carried out a bombing attack on the Hadda Housing complex.[121] The Hadda Housing complex is an upscale housing complex in Sana’a which caters to Westerners, including U.S. Embassy personnel.

8. On July 25, 2008, AQAP carried out a suicide attack, driving a car into a police station in Sayun in the Hadramwat province.[122] The attack resulted in one policeman being killed and eighteen injured.

9. On September 16, 2008, al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. Embassy, killing ten people and six terrorists.[123]

10. On January 26, 2009, al-Qaeda perpetrated a shooting at a police checkpoint near the U.S. Embassy.[124]

11. On March 15, 2009, al-Qaeda carried out a suicide bombing attack against South Korean tourists in Shibam, in the Hadramawt province.[125]

12. On March 18, 2009, AQAP perpetrated a follow-up attack to the March 15 attack several days earlier. Operatives launched a car bombing in Sana’a on the route from the airport. The attack targeted the ambassador from the Republic of Korea and the investigating team that was sent to look into the bombing that had occurred three days prior.[126] The attack was unsuccessful. It may also have, potentially, targeted the Yemeni officials who were traveling with the South Korean officials at the time of the bombing.

13. On June 12, 2009, AQAP abducted nine foreigners,[127] including seven Germans (four adults and three children), one Brit, and one South Korean. The bodies of two Germans and the South Korean were found, having been shot, execution style.[128] On January 7, 2010, the Yemeni government official stated that the five kidnapped individuals were still alive.[129] The kidnapping and executions are believed to have been carried out by Said Ali al-Shiri.

14. On July 31, 2009, al-Qaeda operatives ambushed a Yemeni army truck heading towards Ma’arib. [130] Three Yemeni soldiers were killed.

15. On August 27, 2009, al-Qaeda sent Abul Khair, also known as Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Aseeri, to Saudi Arabia to assassinate the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince (and chief counter-terrorism official) Mohammed bin Nayif al-Saud.[131] Although the attack was unsuccessful, it demonstrated a failure in the Saudi security system. Islamic precedent was given for this attack, based upon an assassination encouraged by the Muslim prophet Mohammed.[132]

16. On November 3, 2009, al-Qaeda assassinated three Yemeni political figures.[133] These individuals were the Chief of the Political Security Organization for Hadramawt Province, the regional security chief, and the head of regional criminal investigation division.[134]

17. On November 21, 2009, al-Qaeda kidnapped a Japanese engineer.[135] The engineer had been previously abducted by Yemeni tribesmen who wished to use him to barter for the release of a fellow tribesman from prison. In the process of the negotiations, al-Qaeda seized him. No demands from al-Qaeda have been made to date.

18. On December 25, 2009, al-Qaeda affiliate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted an airline bombing using PETN explosives.[136] The flight, Northwest Airlines Flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit, was on its final descent when Abdulmutallab was subdued before causing serious damage.

Furthermore, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has killed six intelligence officers in the last year. [137] Slightly more than half of these attacks and attempted attacks targeted foreigners, including both tourists and governments. On a very basic level, this could be an indication that AQAP is currently more concerned with the foreign presence in Yemen than it is with the Yemeni government. However, given that oil exports, tourism, and foreign aid are important sources of income for the Yemeni economy -- and more importantly serve as symbols of Yemen’s ability to control its territory – an attack against Yemen’s tourism industry could very well be considered as much an attack against Yemen’s government as it is against foreign entities. Yet, at the same time, the other half of the attacks (47%) targeted the local government (including eight against Yemen and one against Saudi Arabia). This would indicate a clear current of violence directed against the Yemeni authorities, despite the supposed non-aggression pact that exists between them.

Moreover, in assessing the attacks it is interesting to note their frequency and scale. Few of the attacks could be classified as high-intensity in nature, requiring large amounts of time, energy, and planning. Yet, the frequency of the attacks demonstrates a specific tactic. Rather than strike once or twice with hard-hitting attacks that require extensive time and funding to plan and perpetuate but that would likely result in greater damage, AQAP has chosen to carry out many attacks over a relatively short amount of time. These attacks, while perhaps resulting in minimal damage, nonetheless garner media attention, and more importantly, are easier to carry out and more difficult to prevent; this is even more relevant with a government like Yemen’s, which, in truth, only nominally maintains control over all of its sovereign territory.

Both the organization’s physical activities and its verbal statements provide insight into the group’s psyche. On February 19, 2009, Naser Abd al-Karim al-Wahishi issued a threat against the Yemeni regime, calling for Yemenis to rise up against the government.[138] Moreover, AQAP’s media outlet, Sada al-Mahalim (the Echoes of Battles), called for Jihad against the “corrupt” local Arab governments and provided justification, both militarily and via Islamic precedent, for such attacks, including the use of trickery, as in the assassination of the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayif.[139]

e. Individuals Affiliated With AQAP

1. Imam Anwar al-Awlaki

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki is an influential imam based in Yemen who disseminates messages of Jihad to the west. An American citizen, he was born in New Mexicoin 1971 to Yemeni parents. [140] As a child he spent 11 years in Yemen studying Islam.[141] Al-Awlaki is well educated, not only in Islamic jurisprudence, but also in secular studies. He holds a B.S in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and an M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University.[142] He served as an imam at Rabat Mosque in San Diego, California, where he became friends with two of the September 11th hijackers, Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Mihdar. He also served as an imam in Fall Church, Virginia, where he met Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter.[143] He headed the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Washington D.C. as well as served as the Muslim Chaplin at George Washington University.[144] From 2002 through 2005, al-Awlaki visited Britain often, speaking at mosques and conferences until he was placed on the United Kingdom’s watch list. He moved to Yemen in 2005 and today likely resides in the Shawba or Mareb provinces (Shawba, Mareb, and Jawf are the “triangle” of provinces in which many AQAP members live).[145] In a recently released recording, Awlaki stated that he is a member of the Jihad against the United States.[146]

In 2006, Awlaki was detained by the Yemeni government for alleged al-Qaeda involvement, including a plot to bomb oil and petrol facilities.[147] He reportedly works with al-Imam University, which is a Sana’a Islamic school run by Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani – another accused terrorist.[148] He is the author of a popular audio lecture series about Islam and Islamic history, in which he praises Jihad and assures the victory of the “believers” over the “quffirs” (heretics).[149] These audio lectures can be downloaded from various Islamic sites. Following the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, al-Awlaki praised the actions of Major Nidal Malik Hassan, who killed 13 people and injured many others.[150]

Recently, in early April 2010, the U.S. government approved the targeted killing of Awlaki, naming him as a member of al-Qaeda and arguing that he is actively involved in plotting terrorist attacks against the United States and the West.[151]

2. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was born in Nigeria. The “son one of Africa’s richest families,” his father, Alhaji Uma Mutallab, is the former chairman of First Bank and Nigeria’s ex-Federal Commissioner for Economic Development.” His mother is believed to be of Yemeni origins. He attended high school at the British International School at Lome, in Togo, where he expressed extremist-like beliefs, defending the September 11th attacks to his fellow students.[152] He attended University College, London,[153] where he studied mechanical engineering. He is believed to have been radicalized during his time in London. After completing his undergraduate degree, he moved to Egypt to study Arabic. His father convinced him to study for a postgraduate degree in business studies in Dubai; "They hoped that the cosmopolitan atmosphere would prevent him from becoming even more extreme.” He left the United Arab Emirates for an “alternative course" in Yemen that would take seven years to complete, and broke off all ties with family due to new life style.[154] While in Yemen, Abdulmutallab met with Imam Anwar al-Awlaki[155] and trained with an al-Qaeda bomb-maker.[156]

As part of an AQAP plot, he traveled through Ethiopia and Ghana, where, on December16, he purchased a roundtrip ticket to Detroit from Amsterdam at KLM’s office. He changed the return destination from Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria,[157] and also bought a one-way ticket from Accra to Lagos.[158] He paid $2831[159] for the tickets in cash.[160] After flying to Amsterdam from Ghana, he boarded the plane with PETN explosives sewn into his undergarments. As the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day began its final descent, Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate the explosive device.[161] The plane’s passengers and crew, along with problems with the device, prevented the plane from exploding.[162]

3. Members and/or Affiliates from Abroad

Converts from abroad may also be joining the ranks of AQAP. Some observers believe that AQAP is actively recruiting and training “U.S. citizens who have immigrated to Yemen to marry local women or after converting to Islam in American prisons.”[163] In recent months, 36 American ex-cons who converted to Islam while serving a prison term have moved to Yemen and are believed to have made contact with al-Qaeda. Moreover, an additional, ten American citizens, neither former convicts nor of Yemeni heritage, are known to have moved to Yemen, married local women, and become involved in radical Islamist circles.[164]

A recent example of an American joining an al-Qaeda-linked organization is that of Omar Hammami. Originally from a small town in Alabama, Hammami became involved in Islam in university and eventually became a leader in the Somali radical Islamic group Al-Shabab.[165] More recently, Sharif Mobley, an American who grew up in New Jersey, was arrested in Yemen on charges of being a member of AQAP following a shooting incident in a hospital.[166] As American citizens, such individuals pose a serious potential threat to the U.S. and its allies; after all, they can enter the U.S. and its allied nations with ease and face limited restrictions on their movement and access, increasing their ability to perpetrate terrorist attacks. Moreover, Americans are unlikely to be monitored as they travel throughout the region, providing terrorist groups an undetected outlet for conducting their activities.

4. Saudi 85

The “Saudi 85” are individuals whose names appear on the list of 85 “most wanted” terror suspects of Saudi Arabia.[167] The list was released to Interpol in February of 2009.[168] It is evident from this list that many members of al-Qaeda originated in Saudi Arabia. Relevant to the scope of this paper are 38 individuals who are listed as being affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQY), Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia (AQSA), Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), or are currently believed to be in Yemen. It is possible that not all of these individuals are currently tied to AQAP, particularly given that some are believed to be active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and/or Iran, and are, therefore, likely to be working with other al-Qaeda organizations. However, three of the 38 individuals, including Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Rashid (number 37) and Mohammed al-Awfi (number 57), are part of AQAP Command. The third, Abdullah al-Asiri (or al-Aseeri, number 2 on the list), was the AQAP operative who attempted to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayif. It is important to note that the Saudi 85, generally, have a background in terrorism; where ever they go they bring with them knowledge, skills, and experience in terrorist enterprises. In addition, many of the Saudis on the list possess past operational and combat experience. This knowledge helped AQAP establish its infrastructure in a functional and efficient manner. Such formerly garnered knowledge includes explosive making, financing, the preparation of forged documents, communications and media experience, and other operational experience.

It is interesting to note that 35 of the 85 individuals listed in the Saudi 85 are believed to be currently in Iran. Saudi officials claim that these individuals are active in Iran and are part of Al-Qaeda in Iran.[169] Prior to the 9/11 attacks, Iran largely cooperated with al-Qaeda, despite sectarian differences. Yet, in light of al-Qaeda actions against Shi’ite populations, it is largely believed that Iran allows al-Qaeda to pass through its territory in order to prevent attacks against its own Shi’ite government.[170]

f. AQAP Financing

AQAP's funding appears to come from multiple sources. It would appear that the primary source of funding is private donations. AQAP primarily draws donations from Saudi Arabia. Some of these are directed at Jihad-related activities, such as sums donated by wealthy individuals sympathetic with al-Qaeda’s cause.[171] Said Ali a-Sheeri, for example, the deputy of AQAP, has urged wealthy Saudis to donate funds to support AQAP.[172] Others donate unknowingly, by making charitable contributions to AQAP under the “guise of building mosques and orphanages in Yemen.”[173] Whatever the reason, it would appear that a major source of al-Qaeda funding, globally speaking, comes from “Saudi individuals and charitable organizations to support terrorism outside of Saudi Arabia.”[174] Al-Qaeda also receives government sponsorship. AQAP claims that they “receive money from… governments through Mujahideen,” in reference to funding by Iran via its Revolutionary Guards.[175] Moreover, the Ba’athists in Iraq may be funneling funds to al-Qaeda in Yemen.[176]

Yemen has 5,000 charitable associations and foundations, but the Ministry of Social Affairs complains about lack of observance of rules and systems that charitable associations must follow.[177] One such example is that of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare. Yemen’s Charitable Society for Social Welfare is on the UN approved list of NGOs.[178] Yet, it is registered to provide aid to more people than are actually recipients of that aid.[179] It is likely that many of these charities funnel funds to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition, it is likely that AQAP uses similar financial methods as those employed by other al-Qaeda organizations. Such methods include informal money transferring; the use of the Hawala banking system, which does not require a clear governmentally accessible paper trail; Zakat (religiously mandated charitable) donations; and bulk cash smuggling through curriers.

g. AQAP-affiliated Da’awa Enterprises

1. Al Iman University

Al Imam University was founded in 1993, opening its doors to students in 1994.[180] The University offers degrees in “Sharia (or Islamic jurisprudence), Arabic, Islamic Preaching, and Human Sciences.” Education, accommodation, and meals are gratis. Among its well-known educators is Imam Awlaki.[181]

Al Imam University is believed to incite its students to follow a path of extremist fundamentalism. Examples of students who left the University and perpetrated acts of Jihadist inspired violence include the “American Taliban,” John Walker Lindh, who joined the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Ali al-Jarallah and Abed Abdul al-Razak Kamal, who, in 2002, were responsible for a political assassination and murder of three Baptist missionaries.[182] There are rumors that students get military training at the adjoining military camp, run by Ali Mohsen, a known recruiter for bin Laden and an alumnus of the Afghani jihad against the Soviets.[183] Moreover, training camps, supported by Iran and Qatar and allegedly affiliated with the University, provide training to volunteers to fight in Gaza.[184]

Sheikh Abd al-Majid Zindani is the president and founder of Al-Imam University. In 2004, the United States and the United Nations listed Zindani as a “specially designated global terrorist,”[185] for “recruiting, purchasing weapons, and acting as a spiritual advisor" for al-Qaeda. According to the U.S. government, Zindani had an active role in planning the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.[186] He has close ties with Osama bin Laden that date back to their time together in the Afghani Jihad against the Soviets,[187] as well as ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.[188] In addition, he claims to have an Islamic cure for AIDS and treats patients for HIV/AIDS.[189] A well-known member of the of al-Islah political party,[190] he is known for his Islamic rhetoric, as well as hate speech, such as statements claiming that former President Bush and the Jews were behind the attacks of September 11th.[191]

Zindani is also linked with two other charities of note that are affiliated with al-Qaeda. The first charity is the Saudi Al-Haramain Foundation, which selected him to be in charge of their “It-is-Truth” Campaign, which focuses on the Koran as the forefront of scientific knowledge. The second is the Muslim World League, a Saudi charity that has invited Zindani to many of their events. [192]

Al Imam University is funded by private sources. One such source is Yasin al-Qadi, a Saudi Businessman, who transferred money to the Maram Corporation, which then used it to finance the institution.[193] Based in Istanbul, Maram was supposedly functioning as a travel agency and import-export business.[194] It was founded by Mamdouh Mohammed Salim[195] and Muhammed Bayazeid.[196] A Sudanese engineer named Salim was al-Qaeda’s chief financial officer in the mid-1990s.[197] He is believed to have been involved in the Kenya and Tanzania U.S. embassy bombings, and is known to have attempted to purchase nuclear material on behalf of al- Qaeda. Bayazeid is also Sudanese and is believed to have attempted to purchase fissile material for al-Qaeda. Maram closed down following Salim’s arrest in 1998. [198]

2. Al-Haramain Foundation

Al-Haramain is a Saudi-based charitable foundation that funds terrorist activity throughout the world. For example, “donations to the Al-Haramain Foundation to support Islamic preachers ended up in the pockets of a suspect in the November 2002 bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kenya.” Further, “a wholesale fish business financed with Al-Haramain funds” financed an al-Qaeda cell that was responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. [199] Moreover, Al-Haramian was linked to the al-Qaeda October 2002 Bali bombing.[200] In addition, the organization funded the Pakistani Taliban[201] and in Pakistan and Indonesia, even “advertised donations as a form of Jihad.” Furthermore, a “U.S. intelligence official said there is evidence Al-Haramain is still working with al-Qaeda suspects in eastern Africa, especially in Somalia, where Islamic extremists have repeatedly sought safe haven.” [202]

In 2004 the U.S. government designated Al-Haramain as a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda.[203] The U.S. Department of Treasury designated the organization as a financier/facilitator of terrorism.[204] The United Nations followed suit, designating the organization as being affiliated with al-Qaeda. [205]

Additionally, the organization is clearly linked to the Saudi regime. For example, as of 2003, the Minister of Islamic Affairs of Saudi Arabia chaired “the administrative council of al-Haramain.”[206] In addition, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah donates to the charity.[207]

3. Al-Islah charity

Established in 1990 in the Hodeida governorate, Al-Islah is the “country’s largest charitable organization.” The charitable organization provides care for orphans; vocational training; education, including basic education, education for females and children, and literacy education; “reproductive health” care; “humanitarian assistance” such as the “distribution of meats and foodstuffs” during holidays; and “‘constructing and renovating schools and health clinics.’”[208] The organization is linked to the al-Islah party, of which Zindani is a well-known member.[209] Al-Islah had a U.S subsidiary, the Charitable Society for Social Welfare Inc., in which Imam Awlaki served at the Vice President. The organization has since been shut down. The Charitable Society for Social Welfare was labeled as a front organization for al-Qaeda by the U.S. government.[210]

4. Al Hikmah al-Yamania Charity

Al-Hikmah al-Yamania, which means “Yemeni Wisdom,” is a Yemeni charity with offices in Aden, Abyan, and Sana’a.[211] The organization runs “charitable and humanitarian projects especially in education, health and building mosques as well as care rendered to orphans and the youth.”[212] It may be affiliated with the Yemeni Islah party. There are known to be “extremist elements” within the organization. Al-Hikmah al-Yamania is associated with AQAP, having “provided money and logistic aids to al-Qaeda leaders from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to recruit fighters and smuggle them into Iraq.”[213]

5. Al-Manhal Charitable Society

Al-Manhal Charitable Society is a Somali charity that operates in the Jubba region, Mogadishu, and everywhere al-Shabab is active. Al-Manhal is linked to the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, a Kuwaiti charity that the U.S. Treasury lists as providing “financial and material support” to al-Qaeda. A suspected member of the Somali branch of al-Qaeda, Nour Omar was arrested in Yemen with a stamp from the Charitable Society. [214] Due to its links with al-Shabab and the presence of one or more Al-Manhal affiliates in Yemen, Al-Manhal may be potentially affiliated with AQAP.

h. AQAP Training Camps

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is reported to have training camps located in the Sana’a, Abyan, Shawba, and Aden provinces. Two camps are known of in the Abyan province. The first is located in the Al Jaza area in the district of Mudiya and is said to “house more than 400 local and foreign fighters.” The second is in the Ahboosh Mountains, north of the city of Ja’ar. There are also camps in the Alehimp and Sanhan regions of the Sana’a province. [215]

These camps, in addition to having local teachers, also “employ” foreign experts. Many of these experts, both local and foreign, are believed to be former detainees of Guantanamo Bay and alumni of the fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.[216] For example, according to Governor of the Abyan Province Ahmad al-Maseeri, a Pakistani explosives expert was "highly skilled in making explosive devices and had been teaching and training some individuals in al-Qaeda on how to make and use explosives.” He is likely to have created the explosive device used in the assassination attempt against Mohammed bin Nayif. It is also believed that he accidentally blew himself up last year. Another example is that of a Pakistani poisons expert. [217]

i. Smuggling

Options for smuggling include land, air, or sea. By land, smuggled goods could potentially enter through the north, via Saudi Arabia and the Rub al-Khali Desert, or through the east, via Oman. While Saudi Arabia may have increased its presence along some of Yemen's border, the border is long and porous, with thousands of smuggling attempts disrupted each year.[218] By air, the goods could potentially originate anywhere. However, they would have to land in improvised airfields, given that the Yemeni authorities control the national airports. No such reports have been noted to date. By sea, smuggled items could enter from the south via the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, or from the west, via the Red Sea. Yemen has a 1900 km coast line, which is supposed to be guarded by its Navy and Coast Guard.However, its maritime security services appear to be preoccupied with profit making, rather than focused on guarding Yemen. The Yemeni Navy and Coast Guard appear to be providing their services to private firms, such as the Lotus Project, to escort ships and guarantee safe passage. One may assume that Yemeni Border Guards would help decrease successful smuggling attempts. Yet, utter corruption appears to prevent such actions. For example, Border Guards supposedly prevented Coast Guards “from searching boats suspected of smuggling, sometimes resulting in violent clashes between the forces’ members.” [219]


AQAP is known to be involved with the smuggling of weapons, munitions[220] and fighters[221] to Somali jihadist groups, including Al-Shabab. However, if AQAP can succeed in smuggling into Somalia, there is nothing that should prevent them from being able to smuggle in the reverse, out of Somalia and into Yemen. Moreover, it is evident that smuggling from Eastern Africa into Yemen is already occurring.[222]There is “substantial black market trade between the two nations” with a “staggering” amount of “persons, diesel and weapons” being traded. [223]

j. AQAP Connections to Gaza

Since 2005, al-Qaeda elements have begun to be identified in Gaza.[224] These organizations, including Jaish al-Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaish al-Ummah, Fatah al-Islam, and similar small cell-like organizations, are not al-Qaeda, per se. Rather, while lacking a direct organizational connection to al-Qaeda central and Osama bin Laden, these organizations express the clear salafi-jihadi ideology that al-Qaeda espouses.[225] Accordingly, Gaza has become a location that attracts recruits from the Arabian Peninsula. Within Yemen, there are training camps for those seeking to volunteer for the Jihad in Gaza.[226] Moreover, it is believed that Yemeni elements are entering Gaza in order to be involved with the local al-Qaeda inspired “global Jihad oriented” organizations, seeking to provide their expertise and know-how, or to receive training and experience.[227]

k. AQAP Connections to Al-Shabab

In addition to smuggling, there is an organizational connection between AQAP and Somalia’s Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen. Sheikh Muktar Robow Abu Mansour, the “number two” in Al-Shabab, has pledged to send fighters across the sea to Yemen, to help “fight the enemy of Allah.”[228] In addition, there is a potential for AQAP recruitment among Somali refugees in Yemen, many of whom are “alumni” of the fighting in Somalia. [229]

Moreover, there appears to be a similarity in the explosives used by the following activists: Abdullah Al-Asiri, who tried to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Naryif by carrying explosives inside his rectum and avoiding detection;[230] Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, who reportedly carried PETN in his underpants and attempted to down an airplane on its way to Detroit; [231] and a young Somali man who unsuccessfully attempted to board a plane from Mogadishu to Dubai in November. The similarity in the types of explosives used in all three of these incidents, further indicates the close relationship between AQAP and Somalia’s Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen.[232]

Further, according to reports, top AQAP officials are currently in Somalia working with Al-Shabab, partly in an attempt to avoid detection by the Yemeni authorities, who have increased their counter-terrorism activities in response to American pressure. [233]

l. AQAP Threat to Control the Bab al-Mandab

Recognizing the strategic importance of the “Gate of Tears,” which controls entry to the Red Sea, AQAP has threatened to take control of the strait and attack Western, and particularly American, maritime transport.[234] On February 8, 2010, Said a-Shihri released an audio message threatening U.S. maritime interests, expressing intent to control the Bab al-Mandab, and calling for the Yemeni population to become more involved with Jihad activities.[235]

Recent Yemeni Counter-Terrorism Activities:

a. Military Raids

On December 17, 2009, Yemeni authorities carried out multiple counter-terrorist raids throughout the country. One such raid, using 12 jet fighters,[236] targeted an al-Qaeda training camp in the Mahsad region of the Abyan province.[237] The intended target of the raid was al-Raymi. While al-Raymi was not reported killed, Mohammed al-Kazimi was.[238] The second and third raids occurred in Sa’ana and Arhab.[239] The Arhab raid “foiled imminent suicide attacks”[240] by targeting an al-Qaeda cell that was “planning suicide attacks against schools and industrial sites.”[241] In total, 30 to 60 AQAP members or those affiliated with AQAP were killed,[242] including Saleh al-Qazimi.[243] In the Abyan raid, 17 were captured, and in Sa’ana, 13.[244]

In a Yemeni counter-terrorism operation on December 24, 2009, 30 AQAP members and affiliated activists were killed. The raid targeted “an al-Qaeda leadership meeting that was organizing attacks”[245] on oil targets,[246] government institutions, private schools,[247] and foreign targets, including the British embassy.[248] AQAP leaders, such as the organization’s Emir, Abu Basir Nasser al-Wahayshi, were believed to have been killed. Reports have stated that Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed in the air raid as well, [249] but his brother, Abu Bakr al-Awlaki, claims that he is alive and well. [250]

On January 15, 2010, Yemen conducted an air strike against two cars traveling in the mountainous Al-Ajasher region, which separates the Saada and Jawf provinces. Qasim al-Raymi, Aidh Jaber al Shabwani, Ammar Obada al Waili, Saleh al-Tais, Abu Ayman Al-Masri, and others were believed to have been traveling in the targeted cars. The Yemeni government claimed that it succeeded in killing Qasim al-Raymi, al Shabwanu, and Abu Ayman, yet reports to the contrary have emerged. In addition, a series of strikes on January 20, 2010 in the Mareb Province targeted Shawbani’s home and the al-Qaeda operatives being sheltered there.[251]

On March 14, 2010, Yemen launched an airstrike against al-Qaeda operatives in the Province of Abyan. According to authorities, the raid resulted in the deaths of two “leading al-Qaeda elements who were planning terrorist operations against vital instillations in Yemen.” [252]

b. Airport Security

Yemen has begun to increase its security measures at its airports. Yemen has rectified procedural problems with visa issuing. In the past, it was possible to obtain a visa upon arrival at a Yemeni airport. Following recent events, Yemen has changed its policy; it now requires that visas be issued in advance, from a Yemeni embassy or consulate, and that visas be affixed to the passport prior to entry. In addition, Yemen has invested in new scanning technology, which provides full body scans to prevent the smuggling of explosive devices onto flights.[253] The full body scanning technology allows for increased security measures without nudity-related incidents, which are prohibited by Islamic law.

Concluding Remarks and Suggestions

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has threatened more attacks. In response to the Yemeni government “crack down” on them, AQAP has recently threatened attacks in retaliation for Yemeni/American strikes against AQAP targets. AQAP has also released statements that encourage Muslims around the world to carry out attacks. Specifically, recent statements have called for the targeting of Western planes and airports with small, homemade explosive devices. Interestingly, AQAP seems to claim victimhood, framing their actions and calls to arms as acts of defense against American-led attacks on Islam. [254]

Yemen is slowly becoming a failed state. The government cannot control its own territory and instead of fighting terrorism, it is trying to buy itself more time by attempting to control the Jihadists. However, the government is unable to control these forces and if it does not become stronger, it will most assuredly be unable to do so in the future. Yemen is not yet a failed state, and may make a return, but only if it is committed to increasing control over its territory -- and with help from foreign powers. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has already shown itself to be a shrewd learner and a talented tactician, based upon its attacks, treaties, and dissemination of Jihadist propaganda throughout the world. Should the situation not change, quickly, Yemen will become the new Afghanistan -- and in the heartland of the Muslim world.

a. Recommendations on a Local Level

The Yemeni government must determine what they wish to be -- a shelter for terrorism, an Islamist-radical government, or an opponent of terrorism. Should the government choose to truly confront their terrorists, it could get assistance from both its neighbors and from Western powers. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has made statements along these lines.[255] However, the government, in addition to having made deals with the Jihadists throughout the years, has still not adopted a clear counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency policy. Moreover, even the 2006 jailbreak, which resulted in the escape of 26 al-Qaeda members, was perpetrated with the involvement of members of Yemen’s intelligence services.[256] Further, the Yemeni government does not appear to take the al-Qaeda threat seriously, calling it “exaggerated.”[257]

For the government to counter terrorism in its own country, it must fill the gaps in the current governance and confront the existing problems of failing states. For example, the government must increase governance, establish development projects, provide humanitarian aid, etc. Gregory Johnson, an expert on Yemen at Princeton University, argues that in order to counter al-Qaeda, poverty and malnutrition in Yemen must be dealt with.[258] The government must provide an active substitute for the Da’awa projects, currently linked to al-Qaeda. Mohamed Abdul-Malik Mutawakil, a political scientist at Sana University, noted that the “real challenge is to correct the situation. If you come to Yemen and you push for reform, justice, political change, a better economy, then you will pull the rug out from under al-Qaeda." [259]

The government must also contend with the tribalism so entrenched in Yemeni society. Riad Kahwaji, founder of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, noted that "Al-Qaeda in Yemen are Yemenis, they're not foreign fighters ... They have sympathy and support from tribal leaders in parts of Yemen, which is enabling them to move around and function freely."[260] This has been a problem for the American and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tribalism should, therefore, be taken into account in order to stabilize internal issues and defuse al-Qaeda tribal sanctuaries.

b. Recommendations on an International Level

International aid and support will be necessary for Yemen to tackle its terrorism problems. With its weak economy, the government will need international aid in order to fund the various development projects and humanitarian programs it will need to establish in order to combat terrorism effectively. In addition, Yemen will need international help in the form of intelligence and possibly in the fields of operational activities, cooperation, terrorist financing, and regional border protection systems. Moreover, Yemen will require help and cooperation in monitoring travelers abroad (including Americans and Europeans). American Special Operations and Green Beret forces, in addition to intelligence agents, are already present in the country. Further, Yemen already receives training and aid from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.[261]

In addition, while the Yemeni government has made strides to secure its air space, the government must also make strides to secure its land and seas, including borders. Yemen’s land borders are shared with Saudi Arabia and Oman. These nations ought to work together, with Yemen, to patrol the border and prevent al-Qaeda operatives and munitions from crossing over into Yemen. Further, the Yemeni coast is quite long, and it would appear that the Yemeni Navy and Coast Guard either cannot or will not effectively patrol its shores to prevent smuggling, which primarily comes from Somalia, and would-be Jihadists from entering the country. This is an opportunity for the United States and other world powers to step in and help Yemen patrol their coast, thereby inhibiting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s abilities to effectively operate.


 

Appendixes

A.     AQAP Command

 

Position

Name

Alias(es)

Jihadi Fronts

Imprisonment?

Emir

Nasir Abd al-Karim al-Wahishi

Abu Basr

Afghanistan

Yemen

Deputy

Said Ali Ashiri

Abu Sayyaf Al-Shirri

Afghanistan

Guantanmo, ID: 372

Mufti

Ibrahim Suleiman Al-Rubaish

 

Afghanistan

Guantanamo

Military Commander

Qasim Yahya al-Raimi

Qassin al-Taizi

 

Yemen

Sub-commander

Mohammed Abdul-Rahman Al-Rashid

 

 

Guantanamo ID:333; Saudi Arabia

Sub-commander

Mohammed al-Awfi

Mohammed Atiq Awyad al-Harbi

 

 

Sub-commander

Hamza Salim al-Kuwaiti

 

 

 

Sub-commander

Abdullah Ahmed al-Raimi

Owaiss; Abdullah al-Kini

 

Yemen

Sub-commander

Abu Hurairah

 

 

 

Info. Officer

Sayf Mohammed

 

 

 

Member

Jamal al-Badawi

 

Afghanistan

Yemen

 

** blank cells indicate that the given information was unavailable at the time of writing

 

 

B.    AQAP Activities 2006 - 2010:

 
When
Type of attack
Where
Casualties
Target
Comments
1
3/2/2006
prison escape
Yemen
 
Local
22
prisoners escaped
2
15/09/2006
bombings
oil fields in Hadrwamat and Mareb Provinces
 
Local
 
3
27/03/2007
assassination
Mareb Province
Col. Ali Mahmoud Qusailah, head of Mareb Province's Criminal Investigative Division
Local
 
4
2/7/2007
car bomb
Mareb Province
8 Spanish tourists, 2 Yemeni drivers
Foreign
 
5
18/01/2008
shooting
Hadramawt Province
4 Belgian tourists
Foreign
 
6
18/03/2008
mortar attack
U.S. Embassy, Sa'ana
Hit a Yemeni girls school, injuring several girls
Foreign
 
7
6/4/2008
bombing
Hadda Housing Complex, Sa'ana
 
Foreign
 
8
25/07/2008
suicide car bomb
police station, Sayun, Hadramawt Province
1 killed, 18 injured
Local
 
9
16/09/2008
suicide attack
U.S. Embassy, Sa'ana
10 killed (+6 terrorists killed)
Foreign
 
10
26/01/2009
shooting
police checkpoint, Sa'ana
 
Local
 
11
15/03/2009
suicide bombing
Shibam, Hadramawt Province
South Korean tourists killed
Foreign
 
12
18/03/2009
road-side bombing
South Korean Investigative Convoy, Sa'ana
 
Foreign
 
13
12/6/2009
abduction
Yemen
7 Germans, 1 Brit, 1 South Korean abducted; 2 Germans, 1 South Korean executed
Foreign
Carried out by al-Shiri. 5 Germans and the Brit are still missing
14
31/07/2009
ambush
Mareb Province
3 Yemeni soldiers killed
Local
 
15
27/08/2009
attempted assassination
Saudi Arabia
injured Saudi Deputy Interior Minister and chief Saudi counter-terrorism official, Prince Muhammed bin Nayif, al-Saud
Local
by Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Aseeri (a.k.a. Abul Khair)
16
3/11/2009
assassination
Yemen
3 Yemeni Political Figure: Chief of the Political Security Organization for Hadramawt Province, Regional Security Chief, and Head of Regional Criminal Investigative Division
Local
 
17
21/11/2009
abduction
Yemen
Japanese engineer
Foreign
engineer had, originally, been kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen
18
25/12/2009
attempted suicide attack
flight to Detroit
 
Foreign
by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
 

C.    Saudi 85

 
Name:
Alias(es):
Nationality
Affiliation(s)
Current
Location
1
Saleh Absullah Saleh Qaraawi
Abu Yahya Qaraawi; Abu Abdullah; Behrouz; Najm al-Areen; Abdullah bin Qaraawi; Hamad; Rahman ibn Abu-mail; Moatassem
Saudi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
 
2
Abdullah Asiri
 
Saudi
AQ in the UK; AQAP
 
3
Salah Suleiman Hamad
 
Saudi
AQ abroad
AFPAK region;
Iran
4
Fahed Samir Alqaiqai Ruwaili
Abu Silk
Saudi
AQ: weapons, travel documents, forgery, recruitment
Syria
5
Mustafa Abu Elah Muhammed Jubairi
 
Saudi
AQY
 
6
Naif Mohammed Said al-Qahtani Al-Kodri
Abu Hamam; Al-Qahtani Abu-Hamem
Saudi
AQY; financed terror operations in Spain
 
7
Ali Abdul Aziz Ali
Abu Abdal Aziz; Abu Usama; Abu Nasser; Abu Nasser Al-Gosaimi
Saudi
AQSA
 
8
Ibrahim Hasan Asiri
Abu Salah
Saudi
AQY: explosives and poisons expert
 
9
Ibrahim Muhammad Salam Rabic
Mohammed
 
AQY
 
10
Ahmed Abdullah Saleh al-Zahrani Al-Khozmri
 
Saudi
AQ central (AFPAK)
Iran
11
Badr Saud Owaid Awfi Jihad
 
Saudi
 
 
12
Mcaoui Zayad Al-Asiri
Moatassem Makki
Saudi
AQY; GITMO
 
13
Ali Jabir Jubrab Alfifi
Abu Jafaar Al-Ansari Abu Ibrahim
Saudi
AQY leadership
 
14
Hassan Ioss Bdah Al-Qahtani Saad
 
Saudi
AQI
Iraq
15
Hassan Ibrahim Hamad Alcavan
 
Saudi
AQSA: document forgery, financing
Iran; Iraq
16
Hussein Muhammed Abdu
 
Saudi
 
Somalia
17
Khalid Ibrahim Ahmad Hyacinth Al-Asiri
Abu Abdul Rahman Al-Jihman
Saudi
AQ: forgery, sabotage
AFPAK; Iran
18
Ryan Hamidi Muhammed Zaidi
 
Saudi
AQ
Iran
19
Khaled Saleh Abi Al-Zrabh Acommti
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
20
Hamad Hussein Nasser Hussein
 
Saudi
AQ central (AFPAK); AQY
AFPAK; Iran
21
Ahmed Saleh Ali Alchihp
 
Saudi
AQ
 
22
Abdul Rahman Abdullah Mohammed Al-Bimh Jihad
 
Saudi
AQ
Yemen
23
Saleh Naiv Al-Makhlvi Day
Abu Hafs; Abu Hafs al-Najdi; Abdulghani
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
24
Ibrahim Muhammed Abdullah Al-Mzain
 
Saudi
AQ: document forgery
Iraq
25
Saeed Ali Jabir Kthim
Abu Sufyan; Abu Sufain Kadhdhaab Matrook; Salah; Salah al-Din; Osama Abu; Abu Suleiman; Nur al-Din Afghani Azibk; Salah Abu Sufyan;
Saudi
AQY
 
26
Tleihan Amuallbi-Mutairi
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
27
Abdullah Salem al-Qahtani Dhim Alaliani
"Shaker"
Saudi
AQ in Iran
AFPAK; Iran
28
Radi Smelel Aldllake Sultan al-Otaibi
Abu Abed; Abu Mohammed Maki; Abu Mohammed
Saudi
AQ
Syria; Iraq
29
Adel Fulayyih Salem al-Jaafari
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
30
Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim Tuwaijri
 
Saudi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Lebanon
31
Khaled Selim Owaid Luhaybi
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
32
Badr Nasser al-Mohammed Kinani
 
Saudi
AQSA
AFPAK; Iran
33
Abdulrahman Abdullah Abdulrahman Al-Dosari
 
Saudi
AQ: trafficking from Syria to Iraq
Syria
34
Abdul-Aziz Abdullah Baheej Albhigi
 
Saudi
AQ
Syria; Iraq
35
Khaled al-Otaibi Galeb Al-Rougui
 
Saudi
AQSA
Iran
36
Raed Abdul Salim
Abu Omar; Abu Askar
Saudi
AQY
 
37
Mohammed Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed Suleiman
Abu Salman; Abu Abdullah
Saudi
AQSA
 
38
Ibrahim Suleiman Hamad
 
Saudi
AQ
Afghanistan; Lebanon
39
Mohammed Saad Saeed Siyam
 
Saudi
AQSA
Iraq
40
Hamid Fayiz Ghneim
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
41
Mohammed Hilal Al-Otaibi Al-Mqati
Abu Hajar
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
42
Fahd Saleh Suleiman Aljtili
Abu Saleh
Saudi
AQY
 
43
Fawaz al-Otaibi Humaidi Hajd Al-Habrdi
 
Saudi
AQ
Iran
44
Fahad Saad Mohammed Ajlan
 
Saudi
AQI
 
45
Faisal Jassim Mohammed Khalidi
 
Saudi
AQSA
AFPAK; Iran
46
Fauzan Aouiz Ateeq Zhimi
 
Saudi
AQI
 
47
Atia Karim Fahmi Al-Zahrani
Abu Ibrahim
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
48
Abdullah Nasser Suleiman Riai
Abu Saleh
Saudi
AQSA
Syria; Yemen
49
Mohammed Yusuf Abdullah Altkroni Jamil
Abu Jarrah
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
50
Yusef Muhammed Mubarak Jubairi
Abu Harith; Abul Hakim; Al-Ansari Hakim; Hakim Al-Tbuque; Abu Hilal
Saudi
AQY
 
51
Walid Abdullah Bin Ibrahim Brgsh
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
52
Ahmad Ali Atallah Al-Farhod
 
Saudi
AQY
 
53
Walid Ali Al-Asiri
Abu Hafs; Saad
Saudi
AQAP
 
54
Abdullah Muhammed Adbullah Ayed
Aby Yasser
Saudi
 
 
55
Abdul Karim Abdullah Ibrahim Salloum
 
Saudi
AQSA; AQI
 
56
Abdullah Osman Abdul Rahman Al-Dbeji
Camry
Saudi
AQSA; AQI
 
57
Mohammed Atiq Awaed Awfi
Abu Isamh; Qutaiba; Abu Julh; Abu Harith; Abu Usama; Mohammed al-Harbi
Saudi
GITMO
Yemen
58
Abdullah Faraj Mohammed Hammoud Juweir
Abu Awad; Awad; Awad al-Yemeni
Saudi
AQI
 
59
Murtaza Ali Said Mqurm
Abu Hadrami; Murtada Hadrami; Khallid al-Mauritani; Abdul Malik Abu Musab; Abu Shahed; Murtaza Ali Said Kerem
Saudi
GITMO
Yemen
60
Fahd Mohammed Ali Al-Djaitin
 
Saudi
AQI
 
61
Mashaal Mohammed Rashid Al-Cdokhi
 
Saudi
AQY
 
62
Majed Abdullah Mohammed al-Majed
 
Saudi
AQAP; AQI
 
63
Ahmed Ali Barakat al-Zahrani
Abu Hanadzlah Makki
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
64
Mohammed Ali Mohammed
 
Saudi
AQSA
AFPAK; Iran
65
Mohammed Abdullah Hassan Abu Khair
Abu Mujhin; Abu Abdullah; Hamid; Mohammed; Al-Jiddawi; Abdullah Al-Makki; Mohammed Al-Jiddawi; Abdullah Al-Halabi
Saudi
AQ: former body guard of Bin Laden
Afghanistan;
Egypt
66
Muhammed Qasim Mehdi Reemy
Abu Hurayrah; Abu Ammar
Yemeni
AQAP
 
67
Osman Ahmed Osman Amira Al-Ghamdi
Abu Ahmed
Saudi
GITMO
Yemen
68
Adnan Mohammed Ali Ahmed
Haidera Al-Lubnani; Abu Malik
Saudi
AQY
 
70
Abdullah Azzam Rizeiq Al-Slake
Abu Suleiman; Mansour; Abu Abdullah; Abu Muslim Al-Mecca
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
71
Othman Bin Suleiman Dikh al-Sweedee
Rahman
Saudi
AQSA; AQI
 
72
Abdul Rahman Abdullah Al-Obaid
Abu Asim
Saudi
AQSA
 
73
Abdullah Ibrahim Abdul Mohsen Sharekh
 
Saudi
AQSA; AQI
Iran
74
Atiq Faraj al-Husnani
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
75
Osama Hammoud Grman
Abu Hafs
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
76
Obaid Mubarak Obaid Al-Agafil
Abu Osama; Abu Aisha
Saudi (of Yemeni origin)
AQ
Lebanon; Syria
77
Nasser Abdul Karim Abdullah Louhichi
Abu basir; Abu Basir Louhichi
Yemeni
AQY
 
78
Almqati
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
79
Bdah Mqahs Bdah Qahtani
Abu Qutaiba
Saudi
AQI
 
80
Ahmed Mohammed Kotaim Da'di Al-Hzli
 
Saudi
AQSA
 
81
Amir Ali Saud Shanbari
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
82
Aqeel Omeish Aqili-Mutairi
Abu Omeish
Saudi
AQSA; AQI
 
83
Mohammed Thamer
 
Saudi
AQY
 
84
Osamma Abdullah Ali Dmjan
 
Saudi
AQ
AFPAK; Iran
85
Basil Jerbuai Ali Al-Qahtani
Abu Ahmad; Besbs
saudi
AQY
 

 AQAP = Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; AQI = Al-Qaeda in Iraq;
** AQ = Al-Qaeda; AQY = Al-Qaeda in Yemen; AQSA = Al-Qaeda Saudi Arabia;


Notes:

[1] Dunbar, Charles. “The Unification of Yemen: Process, Politics, and Prospects.” Summer 1992. Middle East Journal. Vol. 46. No. 3. Accessed 3 December 2009.