Yemen in chaos as U.S. warships move into position to evacuate embassy

American Thinker, by Rick Moran, Jan. 21, 2015:

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who overran the capital Saana three months ago, have now taken possession of the presidential residence and hold the enfeebled leader, Abd-Rabbu Mansour, a virtual hostage.

We welcome another Shia state to the Middle East, courtesy of American policy (or, in this case, a lack thereof).

Yemen?  You know, the country harboring al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  If that organization sounds vaguely familiar, could be because they were the terrorists who have claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

And now, with Yemen a failed state in all but name, AQAP will be left relatively alone – with the exception of a U.S. drone strike now and again – to carry out whatever deadly plans they’ve made to attack the west.

The situation is so bad that the U.S. has moved warships closer to Yemen in order to evacuate embassy personnel should the need arise:

So far, there has been no decision to evacuate the embassy. The USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry were moved “because they will be in the best position if asked,” by the State Department to evacuate the embassy, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the planning tells CNN. So far there has been decision to evacuate the embassy, and no request from the State Department for military assistance.

If an evacuation is ordered, the first option would be to have embassy personnel drive to the commercial airport in Sanaa and fly out, the official said. But in the wake of an embassy car being fired Tuesday, the safety of the roads in the capital is now being constantly evaluated, the official said. If embassy workers did drive to the airport it is likely some sort of air cover would be provided, under the current plan.

Other detailed military planning for various options has been finalized, the official said. Those options would be used if a request for military assistance were made.

What do the Houthis want?  The minority tribe wants power – and lots of it:

After clashes at the president’s office and home on Tuesday, the Houthis’ leader threatened in a speech overnight to take further “measures” unless Hadi bows to his demand for constitutional changes that would increase Houthi power.

By early morning on Wednesday, Houthi fighters, accompanied by an armored vehicle, had replaced the guards at the president’s residence. Presidential guard sentry posts were initially empty, however a few guards later appeared and were permitted to take up positions.

“President Hadi is still in his home. There is no problem, he can leave,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters.

Yemeni military sources said the Houthis also seized the military aviation college located close to Hadi’s home, and the main missile base in Sanaa, without a fight.

In the south of the country, Hadi’s home region, local officials denounced what they called a coup against him and shut the air and sea ports of the south’s main city, Aden.

Yemen, an impoverished nation of 25 million, has been plagued by Islamist insurgency, separatist conflict, sectarian strife and economic crisis for years. An “Arab Spring” popular uprising in 2011 led to the downfall of long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh, bringing more chaos.

The Houthis, rebels from the north drawn from a large Shi’ite minority that ruled a 1,000-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962, stormed into the capital in September but had mostly held back from directly challenging Hadi until last week, when they detained his chief of staff.

They accuse the president of seeking to bypass a power-sharing deal signed when they seized Sanaa in September, and say they are also working to protect state institutions from corrupt civil servants and officers trying to plunder state property.

The president couldn’t find the time in his State of the Union speech to mention Yemen – or just about any other foreign crisis precipitated by his incompetent leadership.  The liberal Guardian noticed the absence of foreign policy references, too:

Despite punishing US-led economic retaliation that Obama said left Moscow’s economy “in tatters”, Russia remains in Ukraine. Domestic opposition to closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is growing. Congress is eager to destroy any nuclear deal Obama might reach with Iran, though a deal continues to be elusive, and Obama rejoinders with a vow to veto new sanctions. Just hours before the speech, Houthi rebels in Yemen assaulted the compound of one of Obama’s most critical counter-terrorism clients, Yemen president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, even as Obama has called Yemen a counter-terrorism model to export. Bashar al-Assad remains the dictator of Syria, though confusion reigns over whether his ouster remains US policy, and Obama’s policy of “supporting a moderate opposition” in Syria is barely off the ground. Obama barely referenced al-Qaida, even as his global counter-terrorism strikes persist. Libya, the scene of his claimed 2011 triumph, is a shambles. Notably, his speech did not unveil any new foreign initiatives.

Obama thinks that by ignoring foreign crises, people will forget how badly he’s botched things up.  There’s probably some truth to that; Americans are notoriously insular and care about foreign policy only when we have soldiers in harm’s way.

But we are likely to wake up sometime in the near future and realize that the threat against Americans is at our doorstep, and the president has done precious little to prevent that.

Also see:

GENERALS CONCLUDE OBAMA BACKED AL-QAIDA

obama-hillary-coffins-benghazi3WND, by Jerome Corsi, Jan. 19, 2015:

NEW YORK – The Obama White House and the State Department under the management of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “changed sides in the war on terror” in 2011 by implementing a policy of facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qaida-dominated rebel militias in Libya attempting to oust Moammar Gadhafi from power, the Citizens Commission on Benghazi concluded in its interim report.

In WND interviews, several members of the commission have disclosed their finding that the mission of Christopher Stevens, prior to the fall of Gadhafi and during Stevens’ time as U.S. ambassador, was the management of a secret gun-running program operated out of the Benghazi compound.

The Obama administration’s gun-running project in Libya, much like the “fast and furious” program under Eric Holder’s Justice Department, operated without seeking or obtaining authorization by Congress.

WND reported Monday that in exclusive interviews conducted with 11 of the 17 members of the commission, it is clear that while the CCB is still enthusiastic to work with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and hopeful that Boehner is serious about the investigation, various members of the CCB, speaking on their own behalf and not as spokesmen for the commission, are expressing concerns, wanting to make sure the Gowdy investigation is not compromised by elements within the GOP.

The Citizen’s Commission on Benghazi’s interim report, in a paragraph titled “Changing sides in the War on Terror,” alleges “the U.S. was fully aware of and facilitating the delivery of weapons to the Al Qaeda-dominated rebel militias throughout the 2011 rebellion.”

The report asserted the jihadist agenda of AQIM, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other Islamic terror groups represented among the rebel forces was well known to U.S. officials responsible for Libya policy.

“The rebels made no secret of their Al Qaeda affiliation, openly flying and speaking in front of the black flag of Islamic jihad, according to author John Rosenthal and multiple media reports,” the interim report said. “And yet, the White House and senior Congressional members deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress Al Qaeda.”

The report concluded: “The result in Libya, across much of North Africa, and beyond has been utter chaos, disruption of Libya’s oil industry, the spread of dangerous weapons (including surface-to-air missiles), and the empowerment of jihadist organizations like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Christopher Stevens: ’1st U.S. envoy to al-Qaida’

In the WND interviews, several members of the citizens’ commission, speaking for themselves, not for the commission, added important background to the interim report’s conclusion.

“In early 2011, before Gadhafi was deposed, Christopher Stevens came to Benghazi in a cargo ship, and his title at the time was envoy to the Libyan rebels,’ which basically means Christopher Stevens was America’s very first envoy to al-Qaida,” explained Clare Lopez, a member of the commission who served as a career operations officer with the CIA and current is vice president for research at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy.

“At that time, Stevens was facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qaida-related militia in Libya,” Lopez continued. “The weapons were produced at factories in Eastern Europe and shipped to a logistics hub in Qatar. The weapons were financed by the UAE and delivered via Qatar mostly on ships, with some possibly on airplanes, for delivery to Benghazi. The weapons were small arms, including Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades and lots of ammunition.”

Lopez further explained that during the period of time when Stevens was facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qaida-affiliated militia in Libya, he was living in the facility that was later designated the Special Mission Compound in Benghazi.

“This was about weapons going into Libya, and Stevens is coordinating with Abdelhakim Belhadj, the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, other al-Qaida-affiliated militia leaders and leaders of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood that directed the rebellion against Qadhafi as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood,” Lopez said. “Many of the individual members of the al-Qaida-related militias, including the LIFG, and the groups that would later become Ansar Al-Sharia, were Muslim Brotherhood members first.”

According to the interim report, as detailed by Lopez, a delegation from the UAE traveled to Libya after the fall of Gadhafi to collect payment for the weapons the UAE had financed and that Qatar had delivered to the Transitional National Council in Libya during the war.

“The UAE delegation was seeking $1 billion it claimed was owed,” the interim report noted. “During their visit to Tripoli, the UAE officials discovered that half of the $1 billion worth of weapons it had financed for the rebels had, in fact, been diverted by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the Muslim Brotherhood head of the Libyan TNC, and sold to Qaddafi.”

According to information discovered during the UAE visit to Tripoli, when Jalil learned that Maj. Gen. Abdel Fatah Younis, Gadhafi’s former minister of the interior before his late February 2011 defection to the rebel forces, had found out about the weapons diversion and the $500 million payment from Gadhafi, Jalil ordered Abu Salim Abu Khattala, leader of the Abu Obeida Bin al-Jarrah brigade to kill Younis.

“Abu Khattala, later identified as a Ansar al- Shariah commander who participated in the 11 September 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, accepted the orders and directed the killing of Gen. Younis in July 2011,” the interim report noted.

Abu Khattala is currently in custody in New York awaiting trial under a Department of Justice-sealed indictment, after U.S. Delta Force special operations personnel captured him over the weekend of June 14-15, 2014, in a covert mission in Libya. Abu Khattala’s brigade merged into Ansar al-Shariah in 2012, and he was positively identified to the FBI in a cell phone photo from the scene of the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

The language of the interim report made clear why the sequence of events is important.

“The key significance of this episode is the demonstration of a military chain-of-command relationship between the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood leadership of the TNC and the Al Qaeda-affiliated militia (Ansar al-Shariah) that has been named responsible for the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi,” the interim Rreport concluded.

“What we have here is the Muslim Brotherhood leadership of the revolution giving a kill order to a Muslim militia affiliated with al-Qaida, which then carried it out,” Lopez summarized. “This chain-of-command link is important even though it has not yet received enough attention in the media.

A big ‘oh no’ moment

“After Gadhafi is deposed and Stevens was appointed U.S. ambassador to Libya, the flow of weapons reverses,” Lopez noted. “Now Stevens has the job of overseeing the shipment of arms from Libya to Syria to arm the rebels fighting Assad, some of whom ultimately become al-Nusra in Syria and some become ISIS.”

Lopez distinguished that “al-Nusra in Syria still claims allegiance to al-Qaida, while ISIS has broken away from al-Qaida, not because ISIS is too violent, but out of insubordination, after Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, wanted to run his own show inside Syria as well as Iraq, thereby disobeying orders from al-Qaida leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.”

She noted that in this period of time, after the fall of Gadhafi and before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the Benghazi compound, Stevens was working with Turkey to ship weapons out of Libya into Syria for the use of the rebels fighting Assad.

According to the authors of the bestselling book “13 Hours,” on Sept. 11, 2012, before the attack on the Benghazi compound started, Stevens had dinner with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin. Stevens reportedly escorted the Turkish diplomat outside the main gate of the Benghazi compound to say good-bye to Akin at approximately 7:40 p.m. local time, before he returned to Villa C to retire for the evening.

Kevin Shipp, a former CIA counterintelligence expert who worked on the seventh floor at Langley as protective staff to then-CIA Director William Casey, again speaking for himself in his interview with WND, agreed with Lopez that the gun-running operation Stevens managed is a secret the Obama White House and Clinton State Department have sought to suppress from the public.

“The shocking part, maybe even a violation of international law that the Obama administration has been terrified to have fully revealed, is that Stevens as part of his duties as a State Department employee was assisting in the shipment of arms first into Libya for the al-Qaida-affiliated militia, with the weapons shipped subsequently out of Libya into Syria for use by the al-Qaida-affiliated rebels fighting Assad,” Shipp told WND.

“Very possibly, these gun-running activities could be looked at even as treasonable offenses,” he said.

Shipp further noted that in gun-running operations in which the CIA wants deniability, the CIA generally involves a third party.

“The way the CIA works is through a ‘cut-out,’ in that you get Qatar to transport the weapons and you facilitate the transport. So now the third party is to blame,” he explained.

“Qatar probably would have been able to pull this off without any attribution to the CIA if the Benghazi attack had not happened. The attack basically shed the light on this operation the White House, the State Department and the CIA were trying to keep quiet,” he said.

“The attack on Benghazi was a big ‘oh no’ moment.”

Analysis: Former al Qaeda operative freed, sent home to Qatar

By

Editor’s Note: For more on Qatar’s track record in fighting terrorism, see Dr. Weinberg’s report for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions & Illicit Finance, Qatar and Terror Finance, Part 1: Negligence.

972_ali_almarri_2050081722-7128Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri, an admitted former al Qaeda operative, has been released from a American jail and permitted to return home to Qatar.

No formal statement has been released yet by either government, but it is being reported that al Marri’s release was the result of a bilateral agreement between the Qatari and American governments. According to the US Bureau of Prisons, a prisoner with the same name and estimated age (ID number 12194-026) was freed on Friday.

Additionally, a source from al Marri’s family told the Qatari press he was recently released and arrived in Doha Saturday. Soon afterwards, the story was confirmed by Agence France Presse (AFP), which spoke to al Marri’s nephew.

This followed statements by two of his former attorneys that he was expected to be released within days. And photographs have been posted on social media that reportedly show al Marri coming home to his children for the first time in over a decade. A Kuwaiti newspaper posted video of a man identified as al Marri at the airport in Doha bumping noses with male relatives and kissing his mother’s feet.

An al Qaeda sleeper agent

Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri was at one point the only enemy combatant detained on US soil. According to the terms of a plea deal he accepted in 2009, al Marri “was instructed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to enter the United States no later than September 10, 2001″ and to await further instructions. Mohammed, also known as KSM, was serving at the time as the chief of al Qaeda’s external operations and is considered the mastermind of 9/11 attacks. According to the FBI in 2009, “Ali al-Marri was an al-Qaeda ‘sleeper’ operative working on U.S. soil.”

President George W. Bush indicated that the US intelligence community believes al Marri discussed various targets with KSM, including “water reservoirs, the New York Stock Exchange, and United States military academies.” Bush also described him as “a present and grave danger to US national security.”

The plea bargain accepted by al Marri acknowledged that his computer’s search history included research on “various cyanide substances” according to “the method taught by al Qaeda for manufacturing cyanide gas,” as well as research on “dams, waterways and tunnels in the United States, which is also consistent with al Qaeda attack planning regarding the use of cyanide gases”. The plea deal also noted that “between 1998 and 2001″ he “attended various training camps because he wished to engage in jihad”.

In other court documents, US officials alleged that KSM chose al Marri to be an al Qaeda sleeper agent because he had a family and would therefore be less likely to attract suspicion. He was pulled over in a routine traffic stop two days after 9/11 when a police officer saw al Marri’s son standing up in the moving car’s back seat.

Al Marri was then briefly arrested on an old warrant for driving under the influence and raised authorities’ suspicions when he paid his $300 bail out of a briefcase full of bundles of hundred dollar bills. Al Marri would later acknowledge receiving these funds from an al Qaeda financial facilitator in the United Arab Emirates, Mustafa Hawsawi, whom KSM had instructed him to visit. Soon afterwards, al Marri was detained again when law enforcement officials confirmed a telephone at his home had been used to contact Hawsawi, whom they had already connected to one of the 9/11 hijackers.

Hawsawi was captured alongside KSM in early March 2003 and then held in the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation program before being transferred to Guantanamo, where he remains in detention.

Reason for release unclear

Al Marri’s release seems to be the end result of a process set in motion by President Obama during his first month in office.

Read more at Long War Journal

Thomas Joscelyn: Core Al Qaeda is not dead yet

Published on Jan 15, 2015 by ETV NEWS

Increasing threat of radical Islam in the Middle East. Thomas Joscelyn: Core Al Qaeda is not dead yet

Analyzing the terror threat at home

Al-Qaeda – ISIS Roles in Paris Attack: A New Dangerous Trend?

Amedy Coulibaly, Islamist terrorist who carried out the attack on the kosher market in Paris

Amedy Coulibaly, Islamist terrorist who carried out the attack on the kosher market in Paris

By Ryan Mauro:

***

This is the first time that Al-Qaeda and Islamic State devotees have looked past their leader’s differences so they can work together in a terrorist attack on the West. The question is whether this can spark a trend or whether this is an anomaly attributable to these jihadists’ close relationship that predates the rivalry by years.

Al-Qaeda affiliates have tried to stake out a middle-ground where they endorse the jihad of the Islamic State but not the legitimacy of Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Boko Haram in Nigeria has adopted the style of the Islamic State while remaining loyal to Al-Qaeda officially.

Other groups have also tried to position themselves into a more pragmatic grey area. The Clarion Project broke the story about the pro-Islamic State sentiment of the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a powerful Pakistani terror group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

The leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, has not publicly endorsed the legitimacy of the Islamic State caliphate and he’s criticized the group’s massacres of Muslims. Saeed feels it should target Israel instead. Nonetheless, Saeed has more privately preached in support of the Islamic State.

This may mean that the collaboration between the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly is the actualization of a broader opinion within Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State that sees the leaderships’ rifts as unnecessarily hostile. We have seen no backlash online from the social media accounts of the groups’ supporters over the teaming-up.

The attacks in Paris were more dramatic than any single operation in the West committed by either group on its own in years. That fact will trigger a very serious rethinking among their members about the wisdom of their divisions.

The ramifications of a productive reexamination would be very dangerous.

The immediate impact would be a boost in recruitment and morale, fueled in-part by the understandable anxiety of the Western media as the cooperation is reported. Both groups will feel emboldened by the cooperation and the overall violent Salafist jihad cause they share will gain momentum.

Each side has much to offer the other.

The Islamic State, by definition, is a state with an infrastructure. It is the richest terrorist group on Earth, despite being mostly self-financed, and it is armed to the teeth. It has stronger messaging and online capabilities, exemplified in yesterday’s hackings of the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube page and publishing of American generals’ personal information.

Al-Qaeda has much more experienced operatives, a more expansive international network, relationships with other groups and more public support. Unlike the Islamic State, it has major donors and appears to have a larger network of narcotics smugglers.

Together, they would greatly increase the threat of terrorism inside the West and strengthen each other’s jihads in the Middle East.  The Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are separated geographically except for in Syria, theoretically making a resolution very possible.

Syria is at the heart of the feud between Zawahiri and Baghdadi, but this potential shift could still result in local truces between Al-Qaeda/Al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Syria so they can focus on their common Kurdish and Shiite enemies and destroy any Sunni rebels who stand in their way.

Every terrorist in Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State want to follow in the footsteps of Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers. The Paris attacks are the new benchmark. Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to be aware of this possible new trend of cooperation between these two lethal groups and to adjust their intelligence-gathering and preventative measures accordingly.

Read more at Clarion Project

Why Paris attacks signal collaboration not competition between Al Qaeda groups

parissuspectsCSP, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 15, 2025:

Some experts interpreted initial reports that the attacks last week by jihadi gunmen in Paris were conducted on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a sign of competition between officially sanctioned Al Qaeda groups and a break-away Al Qaeda franchise, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL).  A video released Wednesday, by the head of AQAP, claiming that it ordered, planned and funded the attack will be interpreted by these experts as consistent with this assessment.

However other information suggests the Paris attacks may actually represent a new and dangerous collaboration between radical Islamist groups.

Two of the gunmen were heard saying said they attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine on behalf of AQAP.  One gunman, Cherif Kouachi, told a French news network that Yemeni-American AQAP official Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011, sent him to France and financed his trip.  An AQAP official also made this claim in a video released overnight.

According to CNN, Said Kouachi, another gunman and Cherif’s brother, spent several months in Yemen in 2011 receiving training from AQAP.

The link to Awlaki is significant since he influenced or directed at least a dozen terrorist attacks and plots, including the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, the 2010 printer cartridge bomb plot, and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Awlaki recruited and trained terrorist operatives, including Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber” who attempted to blow up a civilian airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Said Kouachi befriended Abdulmutallab in Yemen and the two lived in the same dormitory.

The links between AQAP and the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office has led some experts to conclude that the Paris attacks were an attempt by Al Qaeda to reclaim the international spotlight from the Islamic State and could reflect a continuing feud between these terrorist groups.  One terrorism analyst said the Paris attacks were a sort of “jihadist olympics” in which Al Qaeda was attempting a “comeback tour” to regain recognition as the world’s radical Islamist “top dog.”

This story became more complicated late last week when one of the Paris gunmen, Amedy Coulilbaly, claimed in a video released after he was killed that he acted on behalf of the Islamic State.  Reports have also surfaced that Cherif and Said Kouachi visited Syria last summer.  Coulilbaly’s wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, who is a suspect in the Paris shootings, fled to Syria early this month.

I believe the conflicting information on the Paris assailants’ terrorist group ties confirms reports of growing collaboration between Al Qaeda groups and the Islamic State and strongly suggests the Paris attacks were not evidence of competition between these groups.

The feud that caused a break between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda began in the spring of 2013 when the al-Nusra Front (the official Al Qaeda franchise in Syria) and Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan opposed an attempt by the Islamic State to merge its organization with al-Nusra.  Some experts believe this was because Al Qaeda and al-Nusra leaders objected to the Islamic State’s brutal tactics.  There appears to be some truth to this explanation since the al-Nusra Front at the time was working closely with and trying to co-opt non-Islamist Syrian rebel fighters.  Moreover, an AQAP leader condemned Islamic State beheadings as un-Islamic.

However, the Islamic State/Al Qaeda split was also driven by personality differences and a struggle for power since Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi refused to take orders from Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

Despite their differences, the Associated Press reported that the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State agreed during a meeting in November to stop fighting each other and work together against common enemies in Syria.  Jund al-Aqsa, an Islamic State affiliate and the Khorosan Group, an Al Qaeda affiliate, also attended the meeting.  There were some reports that the cooperation agreement was in response to U.S. airstrikes in northern Syria.

Al-Nusra attacks on moderate rebels in northern Syria last November may have been a sign of shifting alliances due to this reported Al Qaeda/Islamic State rapprochement.

I believe collaboration between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliated groups probably has been growing over the last year as the Islamic State became known as the world’s most effective and best funded radical Islamist group. There have been reports of Islamist groups in Syria, north Africa, Libya and other areas swearing allegiance to the Islamic State over the last year as well as probable Islamist State-inspired terrorist plots in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Algeria, Lebanon, and other countries.

So if there is cooperation between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to attack Western targets, why would AQAP claim sole responsibility for the Paris attacks?  The most likely reasons are to appeal to Gulf state donors and because Al Qaeda still has a difficult relationship with the Islamic State.

I believe this adds up to a more dangerous threat than rival radical Islamist groups striving to make headlines by staging competing terrorist attacks.  By cooperating, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State can more effectively prepare Islamist terrorists for attacks against Western targets by utilizing multiple training sites, sources of weapons and funding.  Such a wide terrorist support structure may produce better trained terrorists who will be harder to detect Western security services.

The likelihood that the Paris attacks indicate collaboration, not competition, between the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and possibly other radical Islamist groups requires an urgent and coordinated response by the United States and its allies. This response must start with President Obama acknowledging that radical Islam is at war with the West and has redoubled its efforts to use violence to impose its violent Sharia ideology worldwide.

The $20,000 behind the Paris attacks came “from abroad”

Hebdo-300x170Money Jihad, Jan. 14, 2015:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gave $20,000 to future Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi before he and his brother left Yemen in August 2011 according to CBS News yesterday (h/t El Grillo), which supports Money Jihad analysis of the Kouachis’ funding earlier this week. The report also adds credibility to claims by AQAP and Cherif Kouachi himself that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were planned, ordered, and financed by AQAP itself. The physical transfer of funds to Kouachi suggests that bulk cash smuggling (or the smuggling of other financial instruments) back to Europe was the method used rather than a wire, hawala transaction, or trade-based money laundering operation.

Relatedly, the Associated Press reported weapons for the Paris terrorist attacks came from abroad:

Several people are being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

“This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher – it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner, it’s for targeted acts.”

The Belgian daily La Dernière Heure corroborates that several of the weapons acquired by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were bought in Brussels.

The $20,000 figure reported by CBS is also consistent with an estimate over the weekend from counterterror expert Jean-Paul Rouiller. Bloomberg Businessweek reported:

…The Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons used by the attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, likely cost less than €10,000 ($11,800), according to Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, a Swiss research group. Including the cost of Saïd Kouachi’s 2011 trip to Yemen, where he may have received training from al-Qaeda, the total price tag for the deadly attacks by the three men might have reached about $20,000…

Bloomberg went on to report that, “for what Rouiller describes as ‘such a low-cost operation,’ financing from abroad would be unlikely”—a theory that now seems to have been disproved by the evidence.

Regardless of where it is finally determined that the funds for the weapons originated, it should be kept in mind that the direct expenses of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly aren’t the only expenditures that matter. The weapons training camp in Yemen that both Kouachi brothers attended in 2011 wasn’t “self-financed” by individual AQAP recruits. The militants at the AQAP camp that trained the Kouachi brothers didn’t self-finance their own wages. The human smuggling network that helped sneak the Kouachi brothers across the border from Oman into Yemen isn’t self-financed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist imam with whom the Kouachi brothers met while in Yemen and possibly assigned them their marching orders, was not self-financed either. Not to mention that the Kouachi brothers’ basic cost of living in Paris probably wasn’t met by part-time work delivering pizzas and gutting fish at the market.

We will also discover over time that the websites, texts, and videos that the Kouachis and Coulibaly consumed, like most Islamic radical materials, are generally produced by entities backed by Wahhabi patrons. It is important to think of the bigger picture not just of the money it took to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher operations, but the amount of money it takes to sustain a terrorist infrastructure in Yemen (and beyond) that these sleeper cells count on for arms, training and guidance.

***

How terror cells get funding to carry out attacks

Published on Jan 13, 2015 by ETV NEWS

For investigators, tracing source of terrorist financing is now top priority. How terror cells get funding to carry out attacks

The Missing Pages of the 9/11 Report

William Kratzke/AP; Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

William Kratzke/AP; Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Daily Beast, by Eleanor Clift, Jan. 12, 2015:

The lead author of the Senate’s report on 9/11 says it’s time to reveal what’s in the 28 pages that were redacted from it, which he says will embarrass the Saudis.
A story that might otherwise have slipped away in a morass of conspiracy theories gained new life Wednesday when former Sen. Bob Graham headlined a press conference on Capitol Hill to press for the release of 28 pages redacted from a Senate report on the 9/11 attacks. And according to Graham, the lead author of the report, the pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the principal financier” of the 9/11 hijackers.

“This may seem stale to some but it’s as current as the headlines we see today,” Graham said, referring to the terrorist attack on a satirical newspaper in Paris. The pages are being kept under wraps out of concern their disclosure would hurt U.S. national security. But as chairman of the Senate Select Committee that issued the report in 2002, Graham argues the opposite is true, and that the real “threat to national security is non-disclosure.”

Graham said the redacted pages characterize the support network that allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur, and if that network goes unchallenged, it will only flourish. He said that keeping the pages classified is part of “a general pattern of coverup” that for 12 years has kept the American people in the dark. It is “highly improbable” the 19 hijackers acted alone, he said, yet the U.S. government’s position is “to protect the government most responsible for that network of support.”

The Saudis know what they did, Graham continued, and the U.S. knows what they did, and when the U.S. government takes a position of passivity, or actively shuts down inquiry, that sends a message to the Saudis. “They have continued, maybe accelerated their support for the most extreme form of Islam,” he said, arguing that both al Qaeda and ISIS are “a creation of Saudi Arabia.”

Standing with Graham were Republican Rep. Walter Jones and Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, co-sponsors of House Resolution 428, which says declassification of the 28 pages is necessary to provide the American public with the full truth surrounding the 9/11 attacks. The two lawmakers echoed Graham’s assertion that national security would not be harmed, and point out that on two separate occasions President Obama has told 9/11 families that he wants to see the pages declassified. Jones and Lynch wrote a letter to Obama in April urging him to take action, and have been told by the White House that a response is in the works.

The purpose of the Wednesday press conference was to put pressure on the White House by building bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Any member with a security clearance is able to read the redacted chapter in a closed room, albeit under supervision and with no note taking and no staff.  It’s a cumbersome process, and most members haven’t bothered. The relatively few who have read the pages come away with varying levels of shock and surprise. Lynch said he was so blown away that the information was being kept from the public that he told the two room monitors he would be filing legislation. HR 428 had 27 co-sponsors in the last Congress.

Among the attendees at the press conference was Jack Quinn, formerly a top lawyer in the Clinton White House, who is representing 9/11 families in their effort to gain compensation from the Saudi government. If the redacted pages document complicity in the attacks by the Saudi government, or religious and charitable institutions related to the kingdom, which is relevant to a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York where the Saudis are the defendants. Quinn, who is one of several lawyers involved with the case, previously represented families in the Lockerbie crash in their suit against the Libyan government.

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“Like One Body”: Putting Aside Differences to Wage Jihad

ummahCSP, by Kyle Shideler, Jan. 12, 2015:

Counter-terrorism experts appear to find themselves befuddled yet again by revelations that while the Kouachi brothers, who massacred twelve at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo Magazine declared themselves operating on behalf of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and reportedly trained in Yemen for the attack, their apparent partner in jihad, Ahmed Coulibaly issued a video statement recorded some time before the attack, declaring responsibility for the Islamic State (ISIS) and pledging allegiance (bayat) to it’s leader AbuBakr Al-Baghdadi. His common-law wife Hayat Boumeddiene , believed by French intelligence to have played a role in the attack, has apparently fled to Turkey, before making a beeline for the Syrian border, and the would-be Caliphate’s territory.

The Islamic State and Al Qaeda have been at odds with each other since AbuBakr Al-Baghdadi declaration of authority over Al Qaeda activities in both Iraq as well as Syria was rebuffed by AQ leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

How is it that these two groups, who are in dispute with one another, manage to work together to carry out a coordinated attack? Firstly, of course, the Kouachi brothers and Ahmed Coulibaly knew each other personally, and had history together, including the older Kouachi spending time in prison with Coulibaly. Obviously this would play a role. But secondly, and importantly, Jihad doctrine emphasizes cooperation, rather than competition, and the goal, of fighting in the cause of Allah (Jihad Fisabillah), as a religious obligation, is viewed as above inter-group rivalries. See for example, Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif (aka Sheikh Abul Qadir Abdul Aziz, a major Al Qaeda ideologue, who would eventually recant in Egyptian prison)’s essay, “Jihad and the effects of intention upon it”, taken from the larger jihadist work “al-‘Umda fi I’dad al-‘Udda (“The Essentials of Making Ready [for Jihad]”) which was taught in Al Qaeda training camps. In it Al-Sharif writes:

“And the Muslim should not train or perform Jihad with the aim of supporting as specific Jam’ah or party, so that if the jihad is with other than his group he abandons it. So this one is not fighting so that the word of Allah will be the highest, rather so that the banner of the party or the Jama’ah will be the highest, and thus is the asabiyyah of Jahiliyyah, about which the Messenger of Allah  said, “What is the matter with the call of Jahiliyyah. Abandon it, as it is rotten. And then he said, “whoever is killed beneath a blind banner, becoming angry for the group and fighting for the group, then he is not from my Ummah.”

This concept of fighting for the Ummah representing all Muslims everywhere, is a powerful driver of unity of action, and helps to explain how Islamist terror groups come together to cooperate, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable differences (such as Shia-Iran supporting aggressively anti-Shia Al Qaeda in Iraq, during the insurgency against the U.S.). It’s often illustrated by the hadith, “This Ummah is like one body, if one part is hurt then whole body suffers.”

For Shariah-adherent Muslims who insist on upholding classical interpretations of Islamic blasphemy, the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons “defaming” Mohammed represented an injury to the entire Ummah. As a result the need to cooperate in order to avenge the insult could easily be placed above inter-group rivalries. This is not to say that studying in granular detail the individual personalities and group dynamics among various Jihad organizations is unnecessary or irrelevant.  Even jihadists are people and suffer from the same sorts of personal rivalries and disagreements that any organization does. However it is just as important to understand the ideological bonds the act as a force for cooperation, as it is to study disagreements if we wish to have strategic comprehension of those engaged in jihad.

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Video shows terrorist responsible for Paris market attack pledging allegiance to Islamic State

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LWJ, By

A new video has been posted online showing Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a French policewoman and attacked a kosher market in Paris last week, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The video does not appear to have been produced by the Islamic State, as it does not bear any of the group’s usual markings.

The video was first obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group, which notes that it was released by jihadists “linked” to the Islamic State.

Coulibaly is identified as “Abou Bassir AbdAllah al-Irfiqi” and as a “soldier of the Caliphate” in the opening screen shots.

Coulibaly trains for the attacks, doing pushups and other exercises, in the opening scenes of the video. Weapons and ammunition are displayed on a floor.

The video then cuts to footage of Coulibaly sitting in front of the Islamic State’s black banner. At times, he reads from a prepared statement. Coulibaly claims that his actions are completely “legitimate,” as he and the terrorists responsible for attacking Charlie Hebdo are “avenging the Prophet.”

He mentions the international coalition’s war against the Islamic State.

Parts of the video were recorded before last week’s attacks began, but some of the production appears to have been put together as the manhunt for Coulibaly and the other terrorists was ongoing.

The video suggests that Coulibaly had one or more accomplices, in addition to the Kouachi brothers, as the footage was clearly spliced together after his death to explain his involvement and motivations. Authorities are currently looking for his girlfriend or wife, who is believed to have traveled to Turkey or Syria.

Coulibaly claims to have coordinated his actions with the Kouachi brothers, who separately assaulted the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

The claims made by Coulibaly in the video are consistent with an interview he gave to a French television channel shortly before he was killed. Coulibaly told BMFTV, an affiliate of CNN in France, that he served the Islamic State and worked in concert with the Kouachi brothers.

Investigators are puzzled by Coulibaly’s claim of allegiance to the Islamic State, because Cherif and Said Kouachi said they were sent by al Qaeda in Yemen, a reference to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In his own, separate interview with BMFTV, Cherif Kouachi also explained that he had been in contact with Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP cleric. [See LWJ report, Paris terrorist reportedly claimed ties to Anwar al Awlaki, AQAP.]

Numerous press accounts published in the past few days have explored the Kouachi brothers’ ties to AQAP.

At senior leadership levels, AQAP and the Islamic State are bitter rivals. AQAP rejects the Islamic State’s claim to rule as a “caliphate” stretching over large parts of Iraq and Syria. And the Islamic State claims to have expanded its presence into Saudi Arabia and Yemen, thereby usurping the authority of all other jihadists, including AQAP.

Both groups have traded sharp verbal barbs in the ongoing debate between the two sides. Harith al Nadhari, a senior AQAP ideologue who praised the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in an audio message, is a staunch critic of the Islamic State.

But the relationship between Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers predates the rivalry between the Islamic State and al Qaeda by many years. It is possible that their longstanding friendship trumped the jihadists’ leadership disputes when it came time for them to act.

Unverified statements attributed to AQAP have claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo, but not Coulibaly’s shooting of a French policewoman and assault on a kosher market. Western officials continue to explore the extent of AQAP’s involvement with the Kouachi brothers.

Source: Terror cells activated in France

CNN, By Ray Sanchez, Laura Smith-Spark and Hakim Almasmari, Jan. 10, 2015:

(CNN)French law enforcement officers have been told to erase their social media presence and to carry their weapons at all times because terror sleeper cells have been activated over the last 24 hours in the country, a French police source who attended a briefing Saturday told CNN terror analyst Samuel Laurent.

Ahmedy Coulibaly, a suspect killed Friday during a deadly kosher market hostage siege, had made several phone calls about targeting police officers in France, according to the source.

It was one of a flurry of developments Saturday, including reporting in a French-language magazine that brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi had been under watch by the French, but despite red flags, authorities there lost interest in them.

L’Express national security reporter Eric Pelletier shared with CNN details of his story, for which he talked to multiple French officials.

Tipped off by U.S. intelligence agencies that Said Kouachi may have traveled to Yemen in July, France placed him under surveillance in November 2011 but terminated the scrutiny in June 2014 when French security services deemed him no longer dangerous, officials told Pelletier.

The surveillance of his brother Cherif terminated at the end of 2013 when his phone calls suggested he had disengaged with violent extremism and was focused on counterfeiting clothing and shoes.

A U.S. official told CNN’s Barbara Starr that Said Kouachi’s 2011 travel lasted three or more months and that he is believed to have trained with al Qaeda in Yemen during that period.

French intelligence officials believe there is a strong probability Cherif Kouachi also traveled to Yemen for a short trip in 2011, separately from his brother, Pelletier’s sources told him.

A Yemeni journalist and researcher, Mohammed al-Kibsi, told CNN that he had met and spoken with Said Kouachi in Yemen in 2011 and 2012.

But al-Kibsi, who said he met the man twice, said Said Kouachi was in Yemen most of 2011. Kouachi first went there in 2009 and stayed until mid-2010 before leaving briefly and returning at the end of that year, according to al-Kibsi.

Kouachi entered Yemen multiple times with an officially issued visa, a senior Yemeni national security official told CNN.

“Said was not being watched during the duration of his stay in Yemen because he was not on the watch list,” said the official, adding that, at the time, Yemen’s western allies had not raised concerns about Kouachi. The official did not specify when the visits took place.

Kouachi, who was studying Arabic grammar, and underwear bomber Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab previously were roommates for one to two weeks in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, living in the same small apartment, al-Kibsi said. AbdulMutallab is serving a life sentence for trying to bring down a Northwest airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas in 2009 with an underwear bomb.

Kouachi’s residence was very near to the famous Al-Tabari School and he and AbdulMutallab used to pray together there, said al-Kibsi by telephone Saturday. It wasn’t clear when they were roommates, but AbdulMutallab was arrested after the 2009 bombing attempt.

There has been no official confirmation of the claim that he and AbdulMutallab were associates.

The Kouachi brothers, who authorities say carried out Wednesday’s deadly attack in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were killed Friday in a shootout with French security forces outside of Paris.

France, meanwhile, continues to cope with three days of terror that left 17 people dead. Thousands gathered on the streets for vigils Saturday and hundreds of thousands were expected at massive rallies Sunday, along with heads of state and other dignitaries.

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Ryan Mauro on Fox News: Al-Qaeda, ISIS in “Jihadist Olympics”

Published on Jan 9, 2015 by Ryan Mauro

Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro appears on FOX News Channel to discuss the Paris attacks and British intelligence warnings about Al-Qaeda plans for attacks in the West.

Al Qaeda plotting massive deadly attacks on West, Britain’s MI5 chief says

 

Fox News, January 09, 2015:

Al Qaeda militants are planning an attack on the West, aimed at inflicting mass casualties on transport systems or at “iconic targets,” the head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service warned Thursday.

“A group of core al Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning mass casualty attacks against the West,” Director General Andrew Parker said in a rare public speech to a select group at MI5 headquarters in London, Reuters reported. The last time Parker made a public speech was in October 2013.

“We know that terrorists based in Syria harbor… ambitions towards the UK – trying to direct attacks against our country, and exhorting extremists here to act independently,” Parker said.

The remarks were planned before, but delivered after Wednesday’s terror attack in Paris, when Islamic extremists stormed into the office of a French satirical newspaper, leaving 12 people dead.

Parker said trained al Qaeda militants in Syria plan to “cause large-scale loss of life, often by attacking transport systems or iconic targets” in the West.

A former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Fox News that Parker’s remarks jibe with current U.S. intelligence regarding al Qaeda’s ongoing attempts at mass casualty attacks and targeting iconic Western symbols.

U.S. and European intelligence suggests al Qaeda militants from Pakistan have traveled to embattled Syria, where they can find British volunteers to attack in the U.K., Sky reported.  Parker said about 600 British extremists had traveled to Syria to join the ISIS terror group, which have recently taken control of large areas of Syria and Iraq.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told Fox News Parker was referring to the “Khorrasan” group in northern Syria.

“We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time,” Parker told the crowd.

While ISIS is the newest threat to the West, Parker suggested al Qaeda still has ambitions for a large-scale attack. He also discussed the challenges of stopping attacks by self –started “lone wolves.”

“We believe that since October 2013 there have been more than 20 terrorist plots either directed or provoked by extremist groups,” he said, citing deadly attacks in Europe, Canada and Australia. He said security services have stopped three potentially lethal terrorist plots inside Britain alone in recent months.

It is harder, he said, for agents to disrupt plans of small groups or “lone wolves” who act spontaneously, with minimal planning but deadly effect. The individuals are not part of disciplined, sophisticated networks, and often act with little or no warning.

Parker said the terrorists’ sophisticated use of social media has been successful in inciting British nationals to carry out violence.

“The dark places from where those who wish us harm can plot and plan are increasing,” Parker said.

Security experts say an Internet-driven, generalized rage against Western society can spark an attack at any time — like the massacre in Paris, an attack on a Jewish Museum in Belgium, or the slaying of a soldier in the streets of London.

Al Qaeda was responsible for the September 11, 2001 U.S. attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, and a suicide bomb attack on commuters in London on July 7, 2005 that left 52 people dead.

Fox’s Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.  

***

Read about the seven phases of al-Qaeda’s 20 year master plan. We are about to enter Phase 6 – “total confrontation”

Paris terrorist claimed ties to Anwar al Awlaki, AQAP

A CNN affiliate in France, BMFTV, contacted Cherif Kouachi, one of two brothers responsible for the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices earlier this week, before he was killed earlier today. A BMFTV journalist reportedly called the printing factory where the Kouachi brothers were holed up during a standoff with French authorities. And Cherif picked up the phone.

“We are just telling you that we are the defenders of Prophet Mohammed,” Cherif Kouachi told the journalist, according to CNN. “I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by al Qaeda in Yemen. I went there and Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki financed my trip.”

Asked to explain when he met with Awlaki, Cherif said “a while ago.” Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in late September 2011.

An audio recording of BMFTV’s interview with Cherif has been released online, but CNN says it has not independently verified its authenticity.

Earlier, Reuters reported that the other Kouachi brother, Said, is also suspected of having ties to Awlaki. Citing “a senior Yemeni intelligence source,” Reuters reported that Said met with Awlaki during his stay in Yemen in 2011.

Said’s putative meeting with Awlaki has not yet been publicly confirmed by US officials.

American officials have told the press, however, that Said is thought to have trained in an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) camp during his visit to Yemen in 2011. Citing a “senior American official” who spoke with the media, The New York Times reported that Said trained for “a few months” on small arms. CNN added that it “is also possible Said was trained in bomb making, a common jihadist training in Yemen.”

The possible ties between AQAP and the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo were reported in the first hours after the attack. “You can tell the media that it’s al Qaeda in Yemen,” one of the terrorists said during the assault, according to a witness cited in the press. “Al Qaeda in Yemen” is a reference to AQAP, al Qaeda’s official branch in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

A French official who briefed the press shortly after the attack also claimed that the terrorists are “linked to a Yemeni terrorist network.”

In the past, AQAP has explicitly threatened Charlie Hebdo and its editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed in the attack. The 10th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine, which was released in early 2013, includes a “Wanted” poster that is headlined, “Dead or Alive For Crimes Against Islam.” The poster is intended to encourage followers to shoot 11 people, all of whom have supposedly offended Islam. One of them is Charbonnier.

And in the very first edition of Inspire magazine in 2010, Anwar al Awlaki called for jihadists to attack cartoonists who had supposedly smeared the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.

Separately, BMFTV was also in contact today with Amedy Coulibaly, who was not involved in the assault on Charlie Hebdo, but is suspected of killing a Paris police officer and holding hostages at a kosher market.

Coulibaly apparently did not mention any ties to AQAP, but did say he was a member of the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that claims to rule over parts of Iraq and Syria as a “caliphate.” Coulibaly also claimed that he had coordinated his actions with the Kouachi brothers.

It is not clear at this point if Coulibaly had any ties to the Islamic State, or was simply claiming an affiliation.

AQAP and the Islamic State are bitter rivals. The two jihadist groups have engaged in a war of words in recent months.

In mid-November, the emir of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, announced that his “caliphate” had expanded into Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In the process, Baghdadi claimed, the authority of all other existing jihadist groups had been superseded. Baghdadi’s announcement was a direct, ideological attack on AQAP.

AQAP’s ideologues have responded by arguing that the Islamic State is not a true caliphate and lacks the religious authority to rule as one. AQAP has also released a series of messages that are supportive of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.

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