Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
|Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula|
|القاعدة في جزيرة العرب
Participant in the Al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen
The black flag of jihad.
|Yemen; Sana'a and the Abyan region: Zinjibar, Ja'ar, Shuqrah and surrounding areas.|
|Strength||500–600 in Yemen|
|Originated as||Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Islamic Jihad of Yemen|
|Opponents|| Yemeni government
|Battle of Zinjibar, Battle of Dofas, 2012 Abyan offensive, 2012 Sana'a bombing, 2013 Sana'a attack|
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP; Arabic: القاعدة في جزيرة العرب, Al-Qaida fi Jazirat al-'Arab), also known as Ansar al-Shari'a (Arabic: جماعة أنصار الشريعة; Jamāʿat Anṣār aš-Šharīʿa), is a militant Islamist organization, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It was named for al-Qaeda, and says it is subordinate to that group and its now-deceased leader Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen whose father was born in Yemen. It is considered the most active of Al-Qaeda's branches, or "franchises," that emerged due to weakening central leadership.
Ideology and formation
Like al-Qaeda, it opposes the Al Saud monarchy. AQAP was formed in January 2009 from a merger of al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches. The Saudi group had been effectively suppressed by the Saudi government, forcing its members to seek sanctuary in Yemen. It is believed to have several hundred members.
Transformation into active al-Qaeda affiliate
According to U.S. counter-terrorism officials, Anwar al-Awlaki was the main force behind AQAP's decision to transform itself from a regional threat into al-Qaeda's most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The percentage of terrorist plots in the West that originated from Pakistan declined considerably from most of them (at the outset), to 75% in 2007, and to 50% in 2010, as al-Qaeda shifted to Somalia and Yemen.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally designated it a terrorist organization on December 14, 2009. On August 25, 2010, The Washington Post said the CIA believed Yemen's branch of al-Qaeda had surpassed its parent organization, Osama bin Laden's core group, as a threat to the U.S. homeland.
On August 26, Yemen claimed that U.S. officials had exaggerated the size and danger of al-Qaeda in Yemen, insisting also that fighting the jihadist network's local branch remained Sanaa's job. A former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden warned of an escalation in fighting between al-Qaida and Yemeni authorities, and predicted the government would need outside intervention to stay in power.
Yemen played an early role in al-Qaeda's history, as it is Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland. Al Qaeda was active in Yemen well before the Saudi and Yemeni branches merged.
Al Qaeda was responsible for the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 in the southern port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors. In 2002, an al Qaeda attack damaged a French supertanker in the Gulf of Aden.
In addition to a number of attacks in Saudi Arabia, and the kidnap and murder of Paul Johnson in Riyadh in 2004, the group is suspected in connection with a bombing in Doha, Qatar, in March 2005. For a chronology of recent Islamist militant attacks in Saudi Arabia, see Insurgency in Saudi Arabia.
In the 2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, formerly known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe, a Muslim convert who had spent time in Yemen, on June 1, 2009 opened fire with an SKS Rifle in a drive-by shooting on soldiers in front of a United States military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a jihad attack. He killed Private William Long, and wounded Private Quinton Ezeagwula. He said that he was affiliated with and had been sent by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In August 2009, an AQAP suicide bomber tried to kill Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who heads Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism campaign and is a member of the Saudi royal family. In 2009, AQAP also carried out a suicide attack in Yemen that killed four South Korean tourists.
AQAP said it was responsible for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on December 25, 2009. In that incident, Abdulmutallab reportedly tried to set off plastic explosives sewn to his underwear, but failed to detonate them properly.
On February 8, 2010, deputy leader Said Ali al-Shihri called for a regional holy war and blockade of the Red Sea to prevent shipments to Israel. In an audiotape he called upon Somalia's al-Shabaab militant group for assistance in the blockade. AQAP was behind a suicide bombing aimed at the British ambassador in Yemen in April 2010, and a rocket fired at a British embassy vehicle in October 2010.
The 2010 cargo plane bomb plot was discovered on October 29, 2010, when two explosive-laden packages bound for the United States via cargo planes were found, based on intelligence received from government intelligence agencies, in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. The packages originated from Yemen, and were addressed to outdated addresses of two Jewish institutions in Chicago, Illinois, one of which was the Congregation Or Chadash, a LGBT synagogue. On October 30, 2010, On November 5, 2010, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took responsibility for the plot. It posted its acceptance of responsibility on a number of radical Islamist websites monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group and the NEFA Foundation, and wrote: "We will continue to strike blows against American interests and the interest of America's allies." It also claimed responsibility for the crash of a UPS Boeing 747-400 cargo plane in Dubai on September 3; U.S. and United Arab Emirates investigators had said they had not found any evidence of terrorist involvement in that incident. The statement continued: "since both operations were successful, we intend to spread the idea to our mujahedeen brothers in the world and enlarge the circle of its application to include civilian aircraft in the West as well as cargo aircraft." American authorities had said they believed that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the plot. Officials in the United Kingdom and the United States believe that it is most likely that the bombs were designed to destroy the planes carrying them.
In November 2010 the group announced a strategy, called "Operation Hemorrhage", that it said was designed to capitalize on the "security phobia that is sweeping America." The program would call for a large number of inexpensive, small-scale attacks against United States interests with the intent of weakening the U.S. economy.
On 21 May 2012, a soldier wearing a belt of explosives carried out a suicide attack on military personnel preparing for a parade rehearsal for Yemen's Unity Day. With over 120 people dead and 200 more injured, the attack was the deadliest in Yemeni history. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.
During the June 2012 al Qaeda retreat from key southern Yemen stronghold, the organization planted land mines, which killed 73 civilians. According to the governor's office in Abyan province, 3,000 mines were removed from around Zinjibar and Jaar.
On 5 December 2013, an attack on the Yemeni Defense Ministry in Sana'a involving a series of bomb and gun attacks killed at least 56 people. After footage of the attack was aired on Yemeni television, showing an attack on a hospital within the ministry compound and the killing of medical personnel and patients, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a video message apologizing. Qassim al-Raimi claimed that the team of attackers were directed not to assault the hospital in the attack, but that one had gone ahead and done so.
In the wake of the 2011 Yemeni revolution and the Battle of Zinjibar, an Islamist insurgent organisation called Ansar al-Sharia (Yemen) (supporters of Islamic Law), emerged in Yemen and seized control of areas in the Abyan Governorate and surrounding governorates in southern Yemen and declared them an Islamic emirate. There was heavy fighting with the Yemeni security forces over the control of these territories, with Ansar al-Sharia driven out of most of their territory over 2012.
In April 2011, Shaykh Abu Zubayr Adil bin Abdullah al-Abab, AQAP's chief religious figure, explained the name change as a re-branding exercise "the name Ansar al-Sharia is what we use to introduce ourselves in areas where we work to tell people about our work and goals."
On 4 October 2012, the United Nations 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the United States State Department designated Ansar al-Sharia as an alias for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The State Department described the establishment of Ansar al-Sharia as an attempt to attract followers in areas of Yemen where AQAP had been able to establish territorial control and implement its interpretation of Sharia.
U.S. drone attacks
A CIA targeted killing drone strike killed Kamal Derwish, an American citizen, and a group of al-Qaida operatives (including Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi) in Yemen in November 2002. Drones became shorthand in Yemen for a weak government allowing foreign forces to have their way.
On September 30, 2011, a U.S. drone attack in Yemen resulted in the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the group's leaders, and Samir Khan, the editor of Inspire, its English-language magazine. Both were U.S. citizens.
The pace of U.S. drone attacks quickened significantly in 2012, with over 20 strikes in the first five months of the year, compared to 10 strikes during the course of 2011.
In February 2006, 23 prisoners suspected of being al-Qaeda members escaped from a Yemeni high-security prison, reportedly with the aid of some Yemeni security forces. One of the prisoners, Naser al-Wuhayshi, was announced as the leader of AQAP. He was once a close associate of bin Laden. Another prisoner, Qassim al-Raimi, became the AQAP military commander and the third-highest-ranking figure in the group. Analysts credit his talent for innovation, organizational skills, and ability to recruit for establishing a powerful, cohesive unit. He has also been able to take advantage of Yemen's "slow collapse into near-anarchy. Widespread corruption, growing poverty and internal fragmentation have helped make Yemen a breeding ground for terror." More than two years later, on April 25, 2012, a suspected US drone strike killed Mohammed Said al-Umdah, a senior AQAP member cited as the number four in the organization and one of the 2006 escapees. He had been convicted of the 2002 tanker bombing and for providing logistical and material support.
The next year, Wuhayshi made Said Ali al-Shihri his deputy after he was released from six years' incarceration in Guantanamo Bay in December 2007 to a Saudi rehabilitation program, from which he disappeared. Another Guantanamo detainee released to a Saudi rehabilitation program, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaysh, also disappeared and is now described as the mufti, or theological guide, to AQAP. Anwar al-Awlaki also played a crucial role for AQAP.
Gregory Johnsen, of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, said there was evidence that al-Qa'ida was building a powerful support base among the tribes, even marrying into local tribes. Another Yemeni analyst, Barak Barfi, discounted claims that marriage between the militant group and Yemeni tribes is a widespread practice, though he agrees that the bulk of AQAP members hail from the tribes.
AQAP is a popular choice for radicalized Americans seeking to join Islamist terror organizations overseas. In 2013 alone, at least three American citizens or permanent residents - Marcos Alonso Zea, Justin Kaliebe, and Shelton Thomas Bell - have attempted to join AQAP. They count among over 50 Americans who have attempted to join terrorist groups oversees, including AQAP, since 2007.
Reportedly, as many as 20 Islamist British nationals traveled to Yemen in 2009 to be trained by AQAP. In February 2012, up to 500 Internationalistas from Somalia's Al Shabaab, after getting cornered by a Kenyan offensive and conflict with Al Shabaab national legions, fled to Yemen. Part of these guys are likely to join AQAP.
The following is a list of people who have been purported to be AQAP members. Most, but not all, are or were Saudi nationals. Roughly half have appeared on Saudi "most wanted" lists. In the left column is the rank of each member in the original 2003 list of the 26 most wanted.
|Yousif Saleh Fahd al-'Uyayri (or Ayyiri, etc.)||يوسف صالح فهد العييري||first operational leader of AQAP, writer, and webmaster, killed June 2003 in Saudi Arabia|
|3||Khalid Ali bin Ali Hajj||خالد علي بن علي حاج||senior member, killed in Riyadh March or April 2004|
|1||Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Muhsin al-Muqrin||عبد العزيز عيسى عبد المحسن المقرن||leader, killed in Riyadh 18 June 2004|
|5||Saleh Muhammad 'Audhuallah al-'Alawi al-Oufi||صالح محمد عوض الله العلوي العوفي||leader, killed 17 or 18 August 2005 in Madinah|
|2||Rakan Muhsin Mohammed al-Saikhan||راكان محسن محمد الصيخان||killed 12 April 2004 in Riyadh|
|7||Saud Hamoud 'Abid al-Qatini al-'Otaibi||سعود حمود عبيد القطيني العتيبي||senior member, one of 15 killed in a 3-day battle in Ar Rass April 2005|
|4||Abdul Kareem Al-Majati||عبد الكريم المجاطي||Moroccan, killed with Saud al-Otaibi at Ar Rass, was wanted in the USA under the name Karim El Mejjati|
|6||Ibrahim Muhammad Abdullah al-Rais||إبراهيم محمد عبدا لله الريس||killed 8 December 2003 in Riyadh|
|8||Ahmad Abdul-Rahman Saqr al-Fadhli||أحمد عبدالرحمن صقر الفضلي||killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah|
|9||Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani alias Zubayr Al-Rimi||سلطان جبران سلطان القحطاني||q.v., killed 23 September 2003 in Jizan|
|10||Abdullah Saud Al-Siba'i||عبد الله سعود السباعي||killed 29 December 2004|
|11||Faisal Abdul-Rahman Abdullah al-Dakhil||فيصل عبدالرحمن عبدالله الدخيل||killed with al-Muqrin|
|12||Faris al-Zaharani||فارس آل شويل الزهراني||ideologue, captured 5 August 2004 in Abha|
|13||Khalid Mobarak Habeeb-Allah al-Qurashi||خالد مبارك حبيب الله القرشي||killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah|
|14||Mansoor Muhammad Ahmad Faqeeh||منصور محمد أحمد فقيه||surrendered 30 December 2003 in Najran|
|15||'Issa Saad Muhammad bin 'Ushan||عيسى سعد محمد بن عوشن||ideologue, killed 20 July 2004 in Riyadh|
|16||Talib Saud Abdullah Al Talib||طالب سعود عبدالله آل طالب||at large; (last of the original 26)|
|17||Mustafa Ibrahim Muhammad Mubaraki||مصطفى إبراهيم محمد مباركي||killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah|
|18||Abdul-Majiid Mohammed al-Mani'||عبد المجيد محمد المنيع||ideologue, killed 12 October 2004 in Riyadh|
|19||Nasir Rashid Nasir Al-Rashid||ناصر راشد ناصر الراشد||killed 12 April 2004 in Riyadh|
|Sultan bin Bajad Al-Otaibi||سلطان بن بجاد العتيبي||spokesman and writer for al-Qaeda, killed 28 or 29 December 2004|
|20||Bandar Abdul-Rahman Abdullah al-Dakhil||بندر عبدالرحمن عبدالله الدخيل||killed December 2004|
|21||Othman Hadi Al Maqboul Almardy al-'Amari||عثمان هادي آل مقبول العمري||recanted, under an amnesty deal, 28 June 2004 in Namas|
|22||Talal A'nbar Ahmad 'Anbari||طلال عنبر أحمد عنبري||killed 22 April 2004 in Jeddah|
|23||'Amir Muhsin Moreef Al Zaidan Al-Shihri||عامر محسن مريف آل زيدان الشهري||killed 6 November 2003 in Riyadh|
|24||Abdullah Muhammad Rashid al-Rashoud||عبد الله محمد راشد الرشود||q.v., ideologue, killed May or June 2005 in Iraq|
|25||Abdulrahman Mohammad Mohammad Yazji||عبدالرحمن محمد محمد يازجي||killed 6 April 2005|
|26||Hosain Mohammad Alhasaki||حسين محمد الحسكي||Moroccan, held in Belgium|
|Turki N. M. al-Dandani||تركي ناصر مشعل الدندني||cell leader, a former # 1 most wanted, died by suicide July 2003 in al-Jawf|
|Ibrahim bin Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad al-Muzaini||إبراهيم بن عبد العزيز بن محمد المزين||killed with Khalid Ali Hajj|
|Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Jubran al-Yazji||عبدالكريم محمد جبران اليازجي||killed 2 June 2004 in Ta'if|
|Mohammed Othman Abdullah al-Waleedi al-Shuhri||محمد عثمان عبدالله الوليدي الشهري|||
|Mansour Faqeeh||منصور فقيه||surrendered|
|Hamid Fahd Abdullah al-Salmi al-Shamri||حمد فهد عبدالله الأسلمي الشمري|||
|Ahmad Nasser Abdullah al-Dakhil||أحمد ناصر عبدالله الدخيل|| (dead)|
|Turki bin Fuheid al-Mutairi a/k/a Fawaz al-Nashimi||تركي بن فيهد المطيري||killed with al-Muqrin|
|Jubran Ali Hakmi||جبران علي حكمي|||
|Hani Said Ahmed Abdul-Karim al-Ghamdi||هاني سعيد أحمد عبد الكريم الغامدي|||
|Ali Abdul-Rahman al-Ghamdi||علي عبد الرحمن الغامدي||surrendered 26 June 2003|
|Bandar bin Abdul-Rahman al-Ghamdi||بندر عبد الرحمن الغامدي||captured September 2003 in Yemen and extradited to KSA|
|Fawaz Yahya al-Rabi'i||فواز يحيى الربيعي||q.v., killed 1 October 2006 in Yemen|
|Abdul-Rahman Mansur Jabarah||عبدالرحمن منصور جبارة||"Canadian-Kuwaiti of Iraqi origin", dead according to al-Qaeda; brother of Kuwaiti-Canadian Mohamed Mansour Jabarah|
|Adnan bin Abdullah al-Omari||captured somewhere outside KSA, extradited to KSA November 2005|
|Abdul-Rahman al-Mutib||killed in al Qasim December 2005|
|Muhammad bin Abdul-Rahman al-Suwailmi, alias Abu Mus'ab al-Najdi||محمد بن عبد الرحمن السويلمي||killed in al Qasim December 2005|
|According to Saudi authorities, these 12 died or were killed while committing the Riyadh compound bombings on 12 May 2003. Several were previously wanted.|
|Khaled Mohammad Muslim Al-Juhani||خالد محمد مسلم الجهني||leader of this group|
|Abdul-Karim Mohammed Jubran Yazji||عبد الكريم محمد جبران اليازجي|
|Mohammed Othman Abdullah Al-Walidi Al-Shehri||ومحمد عثمان عبد الله الوليدي الشهري|
|Hani Saeed Ahmad Al Abdul-Karim Al-Ghamdi||هاني سعيد أحمد عبد الكريم الغامدي|
|Jubran Ali Ahmad Hakami Khabrani||جبران علي أحمد حكمي خبراني|
|Khaled bin Ibrahim Mahmoud||خالد بن إبراهيم محمود||called "Baghdadi"|
|Mehmas bin Mohammed Mehmas Al-Hawashleh Al-Dosari||محماس بن محمد محماس الهواشلة الدوسري|
|Mohammed bin Shadhaf Ali Al-Mahzoum Al-Shehri||محمد بن شظاف علي آل محزوم الشهري|
|Hazem Mohammed Saeed||حازم محمد سعيد||called "Kashmiri"|
|Majed Abdullah Sa'ad bin Okail||ماجد عبدالله سعد بن عكيل|
|Bandar bin Abdul-Rahman Menawer Al-Rahimi Al-Mutairi||بندر بن عبد الرحمن منور الرحيمي المطيري|
|Abdullah Farres bin Jufain Al-Rahimi Al-Mutairi||عبدالله فارس بن جفين الرحيمي المطيري|
|Abdullah Hassan Al Aseery||عبد الله حسن عسيري||Died trying to assassinate a Saudi prince in October 2009.|
|The following five were reported killed in Dammam in early September 2005.|
|Zaid Saad Zaid al-Samari||a former most wanted, killed by Saudi forces in 2005|
|Saleh Mansour Mohsen al-Fereidi al-Harbi|
|Sultan Saleh Hussan al-Haseri|
|Naif Farhan Jalal al-Jehaishi al-Shammari|
|Mohammed Abdul-Rahman Mohammed al-Suwailmi|
|Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi||Appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009, where he claimed to be the group's leader.|
|Sa'id Ali Jabir Al Khathim Al Shihri||Former Guantanamo captive who appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009, where he claimed to be the group's deputy leader; killed in a drone strike in January 2013.|
|Abu Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi||Former Guantanamo captive who appeared in the threatening YouTube video in January 2009, and who voluntarily turned himself in to Saudi authorities a month later.|
|Abu Hureira Qasm al-Rimi||Appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009. Is the group's military chief.|
|Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri||Operative and bomb maker.|
|Abu Abdurrahman - al Faranghi||A convert—allegedly trained as a bombmaker—hunted by CIA, MI5 and Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, since 2012. (His legal name in Norway has not been revealed by media.)|
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- Riyadh Daily, 12 May 2003 (in Arabic)
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- Summary of several captures in the Arabian Peninsula, BBC, 4 March 2004
- Report on al-Omari, BBC News, 8 November 2005
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- Department of State's Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Hassan Tali Al-Asiri, U.S. Department of State, 24 March 2011
- Vikås, Marianne; Coombs, Casey L.; Johnsrud, Ingar; Akerhaug, Lars; Bakkeli, Tom (2012-07-02). Verdens Gang (in Norwegian). p. 12.
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- Al-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), U.S. National Counterterrorism Center
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- “Al-Qaeda” in Yemen: Timeline of Strikes and Statements, Jane Novak, Armies of Liberation, September 21, 2008
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- Factbox: AQAP, Al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, Reuters, 22 March 2011