U.S. May Have Missed Opportunity to Take Out Top Al Qaeda Leaders

Screen-Shot-2014-04-16-at-10.06.28-AMBY: Washington Free Beacon Staff:

April 16, 2014 10:14 am

Al Qaeda leaders were able to hold a large meeting somewhere in south Yemen despite U.S. drone warfare targeting that region, according to a video published on Hot Air.

The video comes from a CNN report:

A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn’t know about it or couldn’t get a drone there in time to strike.

U.S. officials won’t comment on that, but every frame of the video is now being analyzed by the United States.

In the middle of the clip, the man known as al Qaeda’s crown prince, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, appears brazenly out in the open, greeting followers in Yemen. Al-Wuhayshi, the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda globally and the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has said he wants to attack the United States. But in the video, he looks unconcerned that he could be hit by an American drone.

The video started appearing on jihadist websites recently, drawing the attention of U.S. officials and global terrorism experts. U.S. officials say they believe it’s authentic.

Hot Air writer Ed Morrisey wonders if the United States may have missed a “golden opportunity to take out a large number of al Qaeda leaders.”

Did the U.S. know about this [meeting] ahead of time? If they did, they must have either had difficulty arranging the logistics of an attack — or perhaps had other assets in place for other reasons. 

Morrisey speculates that the lost opportunity could have been caused by the effort to transfer the drone program from the CIA to the Defense Department.

MET: Readers of Radical Islamist Sites Could Be Prosecuted

New_Scotland_YardBreitbart, By Nick Hallet:

The Metropolitan Police have warned that people who seek out and read radical Islamist websites could face prosecution under anti-terrorism laws.

RT reports that a Metropolitan Police spokesman told Press Association: “The MPS Counter Terrorism Command is aware of the websites and appropriate steps have been put in place, including providing security advice where relevant.

“The public is reminded that viewing downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Section 1 and 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

“As part of our continued work, we regularly work with, and support, industry, the organisers of sporting events and companies overseeing crowded places with a variety of briefings and advice.”

The advice was issued after the latest issue of ‘Inspire’, a magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, told readers to blow up famous spots and crowded places in the UK and abroad, such as the Savoy hotel.

The magazine also contained articles on making a car bomb, and a piece by a deceased Al Qaeda leader encouraging readers to target civilians.

The first issue of the magazine, which contained the article “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” is said to have inspired the Boston bombers.

Saudi terrorism list raises question about Islamic Front

A fighter from the Islamic Front holds an assault rifle while a fellow fighter looks through a hole in a wall inside a damaged school in Idlib, Feb. 4, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Loubna Mrie)

A fighter from the Islamic Front holds an assault rifle while a fellow fighter looks through a hole in a wall inside a damaged school in Idlib, Feb. 4, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Loubna Mrie)

By Abdallah Suleiman Ali:

Yesterday [March 7], Saudi Arabia made a preliminary terrorism list that included the names of many organizations and movements inside and outside the kingdom.

Adopting that list was part of the February royal decree that criminalized anyone fighting outside Saudi Arabia. The decree ordered forming a commission to prepare a list of currents and movements that qualify as terrorist groups, thus criminalizing belonging or sympathizing with them.

The commission is composed of representatives from the ministries of interior, justice, Islamic affairs, and foreign affairs, the Council of Grievances office, the investigating committee and the prosecutor’s office. The commission explicitly named some organizations and movements — such as al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Hezbollah within the Kingdom, the Muslim Brotherhood organization and the Houthi group.

However, the commission’s list contained vague terms that rendered the list very hard to interpret and subject to many variations. That may have been intentional in order to leave maneuvering room and flexibility for Saudi authorities regarding some organizations with which the kingdom has strong ties, especially in the Syrian arena. Perhaps the most prominent of those is specifically the Army of Islam, and generally Jabhat al-Nusra.

It is not clear whether the terrorism list encompassed the Islamic Front. The Islamic Front was not mentioned on the list, which may suggest that it was excluded from the terrorism label and that Riyadh will continue to fund the front’s components, especially the Army of Islam, led by Zahran Alloush. But the commission asserted that the list encompasses “every organization that is similar to these organizations in thought, word, or deed” and “all organizations contained in Security Council resolutions and international bodies” and “known as terrorist and practice violence.” That indicates that the Saudi decision left room for many organizations and movements that are not mentioned on the list by name, whereby it is up to the discretion of Saudi political leadership to classify some groups as terrorist at the proper time and in the way that serves Saudi interests.

Read more at al Monitor

Congress Warned About Evolution of Jihadist Networks

download (73)By Rodrigo Sermeño:

WASHINGTON – Terrorism experts warned Congress last week that Islamist terrorist groups are expanding in complex networks across the Middle East, highlighting the evolving nature of the threat these organizations pose to the region.

Seth Jones, a national security analyst with the RAND Corporation, told the House Armed Services Committee that there has been an increase in the number of Salafi jihadist groups, particularly in North Africa and the Levant. Al-Qaeda is the largest one, and all emphasize the importance of returning to a pure Islam and believe that violent jihad is a religious duty.

He said that while about a half-dozen terrorist groups have sworn allegiance to al Qaeda’s core, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, there now exists various Salafi jihadist groups that have not formally pledged allegiance to the militant group, and yet they share a common goal of establishing an extreme Islamic emirate.

“They are committed to establishing an Islamic emirate, and several of them have plotted attacks against the U.S., against U.S. embassies, against U.S. diplomats, against U.S. targets overseas,” Jones said.

Among these groups are also al-Qaeda-inspired individuals and networks, including the Boston Marathon bombers, who had no direct ties to the terrorist organization but listened to al-Qaeda’s propaganda and used it to plan attacks.

“I think there’s been a tendency among some journalists and pundits to lump all Sunni Islamic groups under the title al-Qaeda, which I think has clouded a proper assessment of the movement,” Jones said.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing recently there are at least five al-Qaeda franchises in 12 countries that “this movement has morphed into.”

According to data compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, more then 6,800 terrorist attacks killed more than 11,000 people in 2012, making it the most active year of terrorism on record.

Bill Braniff, a terrorism analyst at the University of Maryland, said the six most lethal groups in 2012 – the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Shabaab – were responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths.

He noted that these groups are generally considered affiliates of al-Qaeda, and yet al-Qaeda itself has not been directly responsible for an attack since 2012.

Braniff said that a dozen of the 20 most lethal terrorist organizations and half of the 20 most active organizations had connections to al-Qaeda in 2012, suggesting that al-Qaeda remains a “central hub in a network of highly lethal and active terrorist groups.”

“What should we take from these seemingly contradictory developments?” he said. “Did al-Qaeda succeed by inspiring widespread jihadism, or has it lost to a variety of more parochial, albeit popular, actors?”

Braniff warned that it would be wrong to conclude that because al-Qaeda itself is not carrying out violent attacks that the group’s strategy has become ineffective.

“This has been the most active two years in the history of modern terrorism and al-Qaeda remains at the historical, organizational and ideological center of the most lethal terrorist threats of our time,” Braniff said.

Several Republicans have accused the Obama administration of downplaying the threat from al-Qaeda, its affiliates and the groups that it has inspired.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said that while President Obama has declared that al-Qaeda was on a path of defeat, the organization currently controls over 400 miles of territory in the Middle East – the most in its history.

“While the president seeks an end to war on terrorism and is not providing the leadership necessary for our efforts in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda seeks a continued war against the United States and the west. This is the reality and this is what our policy and strategy must address,” McKeon said.

Read more at PJ Media

Report: No Victory in Sight Against al Qaeda Without Change in Strategy

Smoke rises from an explosion in the Tornal Farms Al Qaeda training camp / AP

Smoke rises from an explosion in the Tornal Farms Al Qaeda training camp / AP

BY: :

The failure to identify the true scope of the al Qaeda network is threatening America’s interests abroad and at home, according to areport released Tuesday that concludes the United States cannot win a war against an enemy it doesn’t understand.

Throughout the war on terror, both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought core-focused campaigns against terrorist leaders, operating on theories that removing prominent figures would cause the network’s infrastructure to collapse.

However, after the deaths of thousands of al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, the terrorist network continues to gain traction throughout the Middle East.

“Our strategy has been very focused on certain groups and certain individuals, and the rest of the network has been permitted, to some degree, to prosper,” Katherine Zimmerman, author of “The al Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy,” said in an interview.

The American Enterprise Institute report found that local elements have largely been ignored, allowing them to grow and gain influence. Vacuums of power in the wake of the Arab Spring has given an opening for groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to expand their reach.

Without a reassessment of how al Qaeda actually operates, America has “no real prospect of winning” a war that has lasted for more than a decade.

“America’s strategy to fight al Qaeda is failing because we’re not basing it on a current understanding of how that network is operating,” she said.

Read more at Free Beacon

Al Qaeda: Not Defeated Yet

Al Qaeda militants in the al-Jazeera region on the Iraqi side of the Syria-Iraq border. / AP

Al Qaeda militants in the al-Jazeera region on the Iraqi side of the Syria-Iraq border. / AP

BY: :

A remote conference between more than 20 senior al Qaeda leaders that prompted temporary closures of several U.S. embassies in the Middle East earlier this month indicates that the terrorist organization remains committed to expansion and threatening the West, national security experts said Tuesday.

Daily Beast senior national security correspondent Eli Lake and Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) senior fellow Thomas Joscelyn said at an FDD panel discussion that al Qaeda has retained central management as its affiliates spring up across the Middle East and Africa.

 

Lake and fellow Daily Beast correspondent Josh Rogin reported Tuesday that the electronic conference between leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branches featured advanced encryption methods with video, voice, and chat capabilities.

In a web recording of the seven-hour meeting, which was seized from an al Qaeda courier captured by U.S. and Yemeni intelligence officials, al Qaeda network leader Ayman Al-Zawahri compared the United States’ regional position in the Middle East to the Soviet Union on the eve of its collapse in 1989.

Additionally, he exhorted participants in the conference to capitalize on America’s declining influence in the region before announcing that Nasser al-Wuhayshi, leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), will be general manager of the group as it implements a new phase in al Qaeda’s war strategy.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly asserted that al Qaeda is “on the way to defeat” after drone strikes killed some of the group’s senior leaders.

“While there have been victories, the threat of al Qaeda is far from over at this point,” Lake said.

Joscelyn said the proliferation of al Qaeda affiliates in Syria, Yemen, Mali, Somalia, and other countries is not something the group “stumbled upon” but “has long been part of their strategy.”

However, the group’s various regional branches have shifted their strategy in recent years to increase their effectiveness, Joscelyn noted. Affiliates like AQAP have adopted the “Hamas model” of providing governance and services to disaffected residents of Yemen.

Meanwhile, AQAP has continued to attempt terrorist attacks on the United States by planting underwear bombers on U.S.-bound airliners.

“They’re able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.

The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday that thousands of foreign jihadists—including Americans and Europeans—have flooded into civil war-torn Syria to join the al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front, raising concerns among U.S. officials that these fighters will receive training for executing terrorist attacks upon return to their home countries.

Additionally, a report from the Long War Journal, a project of FDD, found that at least 15 Salafi jihadist groups—some affiliated with al Qaeda—have begun to occupy the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The groups have reportedly attacked Israeli Defense Forces along Israel’s border and fired rockets into the country.

“It’s indisputable that [al Qaeda has] made more gains now than at any point in their history,” Joscelyn said.

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

Al-Qaeda’s Emerging Leader: Nasir Al-Wuhayshi

images (6)An Advocate Of Lone Wolf And WMD Attacks On Planes, Buses And Subways In Western Countries

MEMRI:

This month’s unprecedented terror alert and subsequent shutdown of U.S. embassies across the Middle East and Africa were triggered by intercepted communications between Al-Qaeda leader Al-Zawahiri and his newly appointed “general manager” and second-in-command, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, aka Abu Basir, about plans for a major terror attack.

The terror plot, as it turned out, was not ordered by Al-Zawahiri, as first reported, but was proposed by Al-Wuhayshi and approved by Al-Zawahiri.

The Yemen-born Al-Wuhayshi, leader of the Yemen-based AQAP, won his reputation as a fighter in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, and was personal secretary to, and remained close to, Osama bin Laden. After fleeing to Iran from Tora Bora in 2001, he was arrested there and deported back to Yemen, where he was imprisoned until his escape in 2006 and his reemergence to establish and head AQAP in 2009. He has significant ties to Al-Zawahiri, and was one of the first leaders to express his approval of him and pledge his loyalty to him as Al-Qaeda leader following Osama bin Laden’s killing. He has been a major target of the U.S. for years, and has been reported killed a number of times.

At 36, Al-Wuhayshi represents the next generation of the Al-Qaeda leadership; he is Internet savvy, and for the past five years has been actively bringing the philosophy of independent jihad and lone wolf attacks in the West directly to readers of Al-Qaeda’s Internet forums, as he has openly and actively helped to create and grow Al-Qaeda’s cyber army on these sites. These efforts have included providing email addresses for potential Western recruits of Al-Qaeda to contact Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and even providing encryption codes to be used for the messages.

Along with his close comrades from AQAP, Al-Wuhayshi was active in the founding of AQAP’s English-language online Inspire Magazine, whose first issue, published in the summer of 2010, included the infamous “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” article. That article was based on a November 2009 article by Al-Wuhayshi that was published in an AQAP magazine. The first issue of Inspire also included an exclusive and lengthy interview with Al-Wuhayshi.

Since Al-Wuhayshi is now known to be both Al-Qaeda second-in-command and the author of the terror plot that prompted the alert and the shutdown of U.S. embassies, there is much for the West to be concerned about. His long-declared military strategy focuses on attacks on the West, including airplanes, trains, and subways, by methods including WMDs.

Al-Wuhayshi has stated that “we are infatuated with the events of 9/11″ and that he and the mujahideen are seeking to repeat attacks on this scale. He also openly discusses and acknowledges that since 2010 he has been involved in planning strategies and plots to strike the U.S. Additionally, he has expressed satisfaction with the fear in the U.S. caused by AQAP’s attacks, and the amount of money that the U.S. has been forced to spend on homeland security.

MEMRI JTTM – Following Al-Wuhayshi Since 2006

The MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Monitor (JTTM), have been monitoring Al-Wuhayshi’s statements since 2006, publishing translations of his writings and of his audio and video messages – the most recent of which was a translation of his August 11, 2013 letter to imprisoned mujahideen everywhere. In that message, he promised the mujahideen that very soon they will be freed by their mujahideen brethren, who are toppling oppressive regimes daily, and assures them that they are on the verge of attaining victory and restoring the Caliphate.

 

Al Qaeda growing, but less focused on US, study finds

map 2 al QaedaMap by RAND Corporation

By Anna Mulrine:

Al Qaeda not only remains a threat to the United States, but its capabilities and scope are expanding, a new analysis from a respected think tank has concluded.

“There has been a net expansion in the number and geographic scope of Al Qaeda affiliates and allies over the past decade, indicating that Al Qaeda and its brand are far from defeated,” argues Seth Jones, an analyst at the RAND Corporation and the study’s author.

Why, after a decade of wars – the longest in America’s history – is the terrorist organization that the US military set out to defeat still active and growing? And does it really have an impact on the everyday safety of most Americans?

There are a few reasons for the growth of the terrorist group, Mr. Jones argues. “One is the Arab uprisings, which have weakened regimes across North Africa and the Middle East, creating an opportunity for Al Qaeda affiliates and allies to secure a foothold.”

This expansion – coupled with the weakness of central Al Qaeda in Pakistan – “has created a more diffuse and decentralized movement,” Jones added in little-noted testimony last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the topic of “Re-examining the Al Qaeda Threat to the United States.”

As a result, most of Al Qaeda’s local affiliates “largely run their operations autonomously, though they still communicate with core leadership in Pakistan and may seek strategic advice.”

The good news is that within this disparate movement, most Al Qaeda affiliates and allies are not actively plotting attacks against the US homeland, according to the RAND analysis.

“Contrary to some arguments, most Al Qaeda leaders are not interested in establishing a global caliphate and do not seek to overthrow regimes in much of the world,” Jones writes.

Instead, they tend to have rather more parochial goals. “They want to establish Islamic emirates in specific countries or regions, though they may be agnostic about a broader violent jihad.”

The goal for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, for example, is to overthrow regimes in North Africa, particularly Algeria, and replace them with an Islamic government, Jones notes.

In many cases, “France, rather than the United States, is the most significant foreign enemy.”

Captured Al Qaeda documents show that both Osama bin Laden and the current Al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, primarily emphasized guerrilla campaigns to overthrow “apostate” governments in the Middle East.

map of Zawahiri's caliphate dream

map by RAND Corporation

Indeed, approximately 98 percent of Al Qaeda attacks between 1998 and 2011 “were part of an insurgency where operatives tried to overthrow a local government or secede from it – and were not in the West.”

That said, Al Qaeda affiliates do pose some threat to US citizens overseas. The RAND analysis notes that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies were involved in the 2012 attack that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, for example.

There also have been a growing contingent of foreign fighters – perhaps several thousand, according to Jones, who has served as an adviser to the Pentagon – traveling to Syria to fight. Many of these volunteers are coming from Europe.

This is a problem because “volunteering for war is the principal stepping stone for individual involvement in more extreme forms of militancy,” Jones argues. “When Muslims in the West radicalize, they usually do not plot attacks in their home country right away, but travel to a war zone first.”

Read more at The Christian Science Monitor

You can download the PDF here —> Re-Examining the Al Qa’ida Threat to the United States – RAND’s Seth Jones testimony presented before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade on July 18, 2013.

Drone Strike Reportedly Wounds Al Qaeda Master Bomb Maker

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri

By Bill Gertz:

A Saudi national known to be a key al Qaeda bomb maker was wounded during a U.S.-led drone strike in Yemen, according to a Yemeni news report.

Ibrahim al Asiri, the bomb maker, was targeted during a missile strike launched from a U.S.-operated armed drone in southern Yemen that killed two other al Qaeda terrorists, the online Yemeni news outlet Al Watan reported Sunday.

A U.S. official had no public comment but urged caution regarding claims that al Asiri was dead.

The drone attack took place in Yemen’s southernmost Lahij Governorate that borders the Gulf of Aden. Covert, U.S. military-operated drones carried out the strike. The United States operates a drone base located in southern Saudi Arabia.

According to the Al Watan report, photos of the drone strike victims showed one man whose facial features matched al Asiri, who was said to have been severely wounded.

Al Asiri is one of the most wanted terrorists and was behind at least two unsuccessful plots to blow up airliners.

Al Watan quoted eyewitnesses as saying the drone strike Saturday was carried out against a passenger car that heard the drone and sought refuge under a bridge. However, before the passengers could get out of the car, a missile struck the vehicle and destroyed it.

After seeing that the missile had not hit the passengers, the drone fired three more missiles against four people who had fled from the car.

Al Asiri is believed by U.S. officials to have been the mastermind behind the bomb concealed in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on the way to Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009.

Abdulmutallab was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2012.

Al Asiri also is suspected in the plot to blow up cargo planes using printer cartridges filled with plastic explosive in 2010.

Al Asiri, a chemist by training, is also believed to have trained other members of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Saturday’s drone strike followed an unprecedented public warning by the U.S. government that terrorists were planning an attack on the United States.

Read more at Free Beacon

 

Analysis: Recent embassy closures triggered by Zawahiri communications with multiple subordinates

download (27)Long War Journal, By THOMAS JOSCELYN & BILL ROGGIO:

On Aug. 7, the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that the US government’s decision to shutter more than 20 diplomatic facilities was based in part on intercepted communications between al Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, and “more than 20 AQ operatives.” Citing three US officials “familiar with the intelligence,” Lake and Rogin described the communications as “a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations.”

Several US officials contacted by The Long War Journal have confirmed that the Zawahiri-led communication first reported by the Daily Beast did in fact occur.

As both Lake and Rogin have subsequently reported, the communication was much more complex than a typical “conference call,” which they used as a shorthand description.

The original Daily Beast article set off controversy and speculation, with many assuming that such a communication would not take place because it would compromise al Qaeda’s operational security. But much of that speculation was fueled by the idea that what had transpired was akin to an ordinary business call. It was not.

The Long War Journal is withholding additional technical details at the request of US officials.

Journalists at major media organizations contacted by The Long War Journal say that US government officials have warned against pursuing the story. Some journalists have been told that the idea of a “conference call” is “not credible.”

Thus far, however, there does not appear to have been any official denial by the US government.

The original press reporting stated that the communication was between al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and Nasir al Wuhayshi, who heads al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Zawahiri appointed Wuhayshi to the position of al Qaeda’s general manager during the discussion. [See LWJ report, AQAP’s emir also serves as al Qaeda’s general manager.]

But subsequent press reporting indicates that additional al Qaeda operatives were involved in the conversation. NBC News previously reported that “a third al Qaeda operative who was part of the communication did express a willingness to die in a suicide attack — a request that had been denied in the past.”

This means, of course, that NBC‘s sources have confirmed that the discussion was not limited to Zawahiri and Wuhayshi.

Other press reporting has rightly observed that al Qaeda has long maintained a sophisticated Internet-based communications infrastructure. A segment aired on Aug. 8 by CNN detailed how al Qaeda operatives communicate over the Internet.

Writing for The Week, Marc Ambinder noted that early reports said a courier had been intercepted and that this “might — might — mean that the US got its hands on a copy of the tape” without actually intercepting a communication in real-time.

Many of the details concerning how the communication was obtained, and what exactly was said during it, remain unreported.

 

 

Obama standing by decision to lift moratorium on releasing Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to Yemen

Map-Yemen_full_600By :

In spite of the ongoing terror threat emanating from Yemen, the White House says it does not plan to rethink President Obama’s decision last May to lift a moratorium on releasing Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to that country.

“I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis,” Obama told an audience at the National Defense University during a major counterterrorism policy speech on May 23.

The president is standing by that announcement, even though Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen that U.S. intelligence officials say is now the greatest Al Qaeda threat to the U.S. homeland, was formed in part by several former Guantanamo Bay detainees who were released in 2006.

“A handful of former GITMO detainees, primarily Saudi citizens, made their way across the border into Yemen and they joined AQ in Yemen,” according to AQAP expert Gregory Johnsen, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.”

“It was that merger between people, former GITMO detainees from Saudi Arabia and the AQ escapees in Yemen, that really formed AQAP, the group that announced itself in January 2009, and that’s the group we know today as AQAP.”

The genesis of AQAP goes back to a prison break in Yemen in February 2006. That’s when 23 Al Qaeda suspects, including Nasser Al Wuhayshi – who once served as Usama bin Laden’s secretary and whose communications with Ayman Zawahiri were intercepted by U.S. intelligence – tunneled out of a maximum security prison in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

The prisoners tunneled their way out of their two-room prison cell into a neighboring mosque, where they dusted themselves off, said their morning prayers and walked out the front door to freedom.

Wuhayshi and several prisoners who had been released from Guantanamo Bay, including Said Al Shihri, who was killed by a U.S. drone earlier this year, formed AQAP officially in 2009.

On Aug. 1, just one day before this week’s terror warning that led to the closure of the 19 Embassies, Obama met Yemen’s president at the White House.

Presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters then,“I think the lifting of the (detainee transfer) moratorium reflects a changing U.S. policy that reflects a changing Yemen.”

One thing that has not changed in Yemen is the strength of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Read more at Fox News

 

AQAP Qasim al-Rimi Video Indicator of Upcoming Attack Against Americans

AQAP-Malahim-Rimi-Americans-2Jun2013REL-ICDV03056-STILL-01-400wIntel Center:

4 AUG 2013 NOTE: This report was initially released by IntelCenter on 2 Jun. 2013. In light of the high threat of attack in Aug. against US targets and the closure of US embassies and consulates from Mauritania to Bangladesh, it is being reissued as the 2 Jun. message from AQAP serves as an indicator of an upcoming attack that would fit within this time period.

On 2 Jun. 2013, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) al-Malahim released a new 6’02” video containing an audio statement from Commander Qasim al-Rimi entitled, “Message to the American Nation”. Al-Rimi speaks in Arabic and the video has English subtitles. The message fits the structure of warning messages by core al-Qaeda and its affiliates and thus serves as an indicator of a possible upcoming attack against Americans with a focus on US soil. There is no ability to set a fixed time window on when such an attack could occur. While it could be in the near-term, historical patterns have shown the threat window to extend as far out as a year or longer between warning and attack. This is partly indicative of the time it takes to move from conception to execution. The production date of al-Rimi’s video is May 2013 but it was not broadly released until 2 Jun.. A transcript of al-Rimi’s statement appeared in the 11th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine which was released around 30 May 2013.

In the message al-Rimi references the Boston Marathon bombings and ricin attacks. He said, “The Boston events, the road accidents and the poisoned letters and others, disregard of the people behind them, indicate that the control of your security has broken away and operations against you has taken a path which can be controlled not. So grasp unto yourselves if you love yourselves. Because making these bombs has become in everyone’s hand [sic] reach. So those standing against your aggression and oppression on humanity need no trouble, but a bit of thinking, choosing a location which will damage your economy and terrify your hearts, thence you will pray for woes and destruction, evoking near past memories.”

Traditional al-Qaeda warning messages serve to let their enemies know their current actions are wrong and it is up to them to change them. It fulfills a jihadist obligation to give their enemies a chance to correct their ways. If the enemy chooses not to correct their ways then they alone bear the responsibility for any attacks against them. The jihadist group is absolved of responsibility as it was left with no choice but to act. The victims forced them to do it.

“O American nation, indeed, your security is not achieved by despoiling other nations’ security or by attacking and oppressing them. Your security is achieved by stopping the foolish, who rule you, from oppression and aggression. Know that oppression and aggression rebound on the throats of the perpetrators.”

Al-Rimi’s message firmly fixes responsibility for the US government’s actions on the American people. This supports a justification for mass casualty attacks targeting civilians as it shifts responsibility from only residing with military and government targets. His message also maintains a consistent core targeting preference for al-Qaeda, striking at the US economy.

Read more 

U.S. Arrests 19 Yr-Old Jihadist Convert – This Time We Got Lucky

Qassim al RimiBY CLARE LOPEZ:

A Jacksonville, Florida teen named Shelton Thomas Bell was indicted July 18 on charges of conspiracy and attempt to provide material support to terrorists. Only 19 years old at the time of his arrest, Bell was a convert to Islam who previously had attended the N.E. Florida Islamic Center in Jacksonville before departing in late 2012 on an overseas journey to join the “jihad.”

Somehow, somewhere, Bell seemed to have gotten the idea that jihad was violent armed fighting, and he wanted to link up with a branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP) called Ansar al-Shariah (AAS), which is based in Yemen.

The primary objective of both AQAP and its AAS spin-off is the imposition and enforcement of Islamic (sharia) law. Both AQAP and AAS are on the list of U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations , which makes it a crime to provide them material support.

Unfortunately for Bell, his late September 2012 journey to the Middle East began with a stopover in Israel, who promptly refused him entry and put him on a return flight to his previous stopover, in Warsaw, Poland. There, Bell bought a ticket to Amman, Jordan, where things seemed to come apart for him.

According to the indictment, Bell intended to travel to Oman before making his way overland to join Islamic fighters in Yemen; he even bought a plane ticket to Oman. Whether it was an Israeli entry refusal stamp in his passport, or simply Jordanian officials talking with their Israeli counterparts, Bell’s journey to jihad went no further than Amman and he returned to the U.S.

As Randy McDaniels noted in a July 22 WatchDogWire article about the case, Bell was only 17 years old when attended the N.E. Florida Islamic Center; and yet, even at that young age, according to Parvez Ahmed, a Board member and official spokesman for the Islamic Center, Bell already stood out for his “very traditional Islamic clothing,” an obvious signal to his developing Islamic devotion.

The district court indictment further notes that, during 2012, Bell had drawn attention to himself by trying to persuade at least one other Jacksonville juvenile to join him in his journey to jihad. That unnamed juvenile participated in physical fitness and firearms training with Bell and even conducted a practice run with him one night in July 2012 when they “caused significant damage to religious statues at the Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens Cemetery.”

Inept as Bell’s attempts to fight jihad with AAS/AQAP may have been, the key issues here, as McDaniels points out, center rather on who were the influential individuals in Bell’s life that led him to convert to Islam in the first place and then so deeply indoctrinated him with Islamic precepts on jihad that he took such concrete, indictable steps towards joining forces that are implacably hostile to U.S. national security interests.

Did Bell fall under the influence of individuals at the N.E. Florida Islamic Center? Did any of such influences point him in the direction of online internet contacts in the world of jihadist chat rooms?

Read more at The Clarion Project

U.S. disrupts al-Qaeda’s online magazine

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U.S. intelligence operatives covertly sabotaged a prominent al-Qaeda online magazine last month in an apparent attempt to sow confusion among the group’s followers, according to officials.

The operation succeeded, at least temporarily, in thwarting publication of the latest issue of Inspire, the English-language magazine distributed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When it appeared online, the text on the second page was garbled and the following 20 pages were blank. The sabotaged version was quickly removed from the online forum that hosted it, according to independent analysts who track jihadi Web sites.

Experts have long warned that vulnerability to breaches has risen amid the post-9/11 rush to fill jobs

It’s unclear how the hacking occurred, although U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the CIA, have invested heavily in cyber-capabilities in recent years. Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the recent operation was only the latest U.S. attempt to disrupt al-Qaeda’s online propaganda.

“You can make it hard for them to distribute it, or you can mess with the content. And you can mess with the content in a way that is obvious or in ways that are not obvious,” said one intelligence official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal debates.

Officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the government’s 16 intelligence agencies, declined to comment, as did the White House and the Pentagon.

The hacked version of Inspire magazine appeared May 14, according to Evan Kohlmann, an analyst who tracks jihadi Web sites. His firm, Flashpoint Global Partners, captured an image of the issue, which featured a cover showing a fighter in a heavy coat, shouldering a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a Kalashnikov rifle. The title was, “How Did it Come to This?”

Within a half-hour of its appearance, the magazine was removed, presumably in response to the hacking, Kohlmann said.

On May 30, a new version, Issue 11, appeared. That issue portrayed the Boston Marathon bombing as vindication of Inspire’s message that “a single lone jihad operation can force America to stand on one foot and live in a terrified state, full of fear . . .”

Inspire comprises first-person accounts of operations, exhortations to jihad and do-it-yourself advice for extremists. A second intelligence official said the publication is seen as a threat because it “has a specific readership — a following. People will look for it, as opposed to something randomly posted. Two, it is very user-friendly. Inspire uses pictures and step-by-step diagrams, and that’s a problem.”

The decision to disrupt the magazine last month was part of an debate within the Obama administration over the response to online publications that promote radicalization.

The debate spiked after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing. One of the suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, told the FBI that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, learned how to make the pressure-cooker bomb used in the bombing from the magazine. He also told them they had been inspired by sermons and other material from the Internet, according to officials briefed on the disclosures.

Read more at The Washington Post

 

How Inspire Magazine Uniquely Motivates Acts of Terrorism

Note: Massive thanks to Dr. Jarret Brachman for his guidance and support in putting together this post. He’s one of the best out there studying violent extremism, and we recommend that you check out his book ”Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice“ and follow him on Twitter.

The Boston bombing investigation continues to reveal new information on the two primary suspects, but quietly reported last Friday was the discovery of jihadi propaganda Inspire Magazine – produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – on a computer belonging to the elder Tsarnaev brother’s widow. The publication, particularly its first issue containing instructions for building a pressure cooker bomb, was spotlighted as a possible resource immediately after the bombings.

The news the Tsarnaevs possessed Inspire, whether it directly influenced their actions or not, serves as evidence of the AQAP magazine’s reach and visibility in the jihadist community.

Now, Max Fisher at the Washington Post rightly pointed out Inspire is not the only place to find such information; so, why exclusively call out and analyze Inspire?

What makes the magazine so intriguing from a counter terrorism perspective is its seemingly unique ability to spur people into action.

There are many places where you can learn to build a destructive device; there are far fewer that emotionally instigate actual mass killing operations. As communication scholars at Arizona State University have explained, some of al-Qaida’s most effective pied pipers have been able to link widely accepted collections of stories or “master narratives” (“insult to Islam” or “support of Israel”) to challenges being faced in specific geographic locations “local narratives” to calls for individual-level action, such as using pressure cookers, knives on trucks, etc.

Narrative as the Hook

Instructions for IEDs are typically uninteresting when disconnected from incentive. Where Inspire has proven competent is living up to its name and making an act of terrorism accessible to the radicalized malcontent without an army. Take the following excerpts from Inspire #2 and Inspire #10 respectively:

Inspire #2 (October 2010): This idea could be implemented in countries like Israel, the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland and other countries where the government and public sentiment is in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq or countries that had a prominent role in the defamation of Muhammad. In such countries we may strike at the public at large. As long as they target our noncombatants, we will target theirs. This is one of many ways to implement this idea. You may modify it and add or subtract to it according to what is suitable for your particular conditions.

and…

Inspire # 10 (March 2013): The French crusade on Mali is certainly connected to the historic crusades, and definitely its result won’t defer from its predecessors. So, why is France so thick in learning from its past mistakes? Is it leaving Paris undefended once again to engage in a war away from home? Woe upon you from tens of Muhammad Merah!

As you can see, there’s a heavy dose of “why” one should be willing to carry out a attack in the name of Islam. Providing a narrative, whether it be insult of Muhammad, occupation of Palestine, or American wars, loads the rest of the instructions with emotion. Next in the process is localizing the capacity for an attack.

Localizing a Mission

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The above map created using Recorded Future details all of the countries mentioned in the ten issues of Inspire Magazine. As you can see, there are very specific actions tied to distinct locations following the explanation and rationalization for an attack.

Read more at Analysis Intelligence