Stills I captured (using SnagIt software) from various video releases produced by Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) media outlet, the Al-Malahim (Malehem; Epics) Media Foundation.
The original AQAP was founded in Saudi Arabia by Yusuf al-'Uyayri (sometimes spelled "Ayiri"), who was killed in an armed confrontation with Saudi security forces in June 2003. Between 2003 and 2005, AQAP carried out a series of major attacks on foreign targets inside the kingdom and Saudi security forces. By the end of 2005, the AQAP network inside the kingdom had been largely dismantled by Saudi security forces and most of the group's original members and leadership had been killed or captured.
By 2007, the Yemeni branch of AQAP had begun to reorganize under the leadership of Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi (sometimes spelled "al-Wahayshi" and "al-Wahishi"), one of 23 prisoners who escaped from a jail in the Yemeni capital of San'a by tunneling out in February 2006. A kamikaze attack on a group of Spanish tourists in June 2007 and the September 2008 assault on the United States embassy in Sana'a by a team of multiple kamikaze bombers marked the full-scale emergence of a revitalized Yemen-based AQAP.
In January 2009, Al-Malahim released a video entitled "From Here We Begin and at Al-Aqsa We Meet" featuring the new senior leadership of AQAP, now based in Yemen. Al-Wuhayshi was its amir (leader), Abu Sufyan al-Azdi Sa'id al-Shihri its deputy amir, Qasim al-Raymi (sometimes spelled "al-Rimi") its chief military commander, and Muhammad al-'Awfi a senior field commander. Al-Raymi had escaped prison with al-Wuhayshi; both are Yemenis. Al-Shihri and al-'Awfi, both Saudis, were former inmates at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and graduates of a Saudi government "rehabilitation" program for jihadi-takfiris.
In the video, the "merger" of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of AQAP was announced, though many experts saw this as mostly done for show. The Saudi branch of AQAP was virtually non-existent. The next month, al-'Awfi surrendered to Saudi officials in Yemen after the Saudi government reportedly began harassing his family in the kingdom.
AQAP has made inroads with some of central Yemen's tribes and has capitalized on blunders made by the Yemeni government. It has proven its capability of launching overseas attacks through the attempted bombing, albeit a failed one, of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 by a young Nigerian man, 'Umar Farouq 'Abdulmutallab. Al-Wuhayshi has also publicly announced his support for and protection of the radical American Muslim preacher Anwar al-'Awlaqi (sometimes spelled "Awlaki" and "Aulaqi"), who is currently hiding in Yemen, shielded by his tribe. AQAP has also been in contact with Somalia's increasingly powerful insurgent-jihadi group Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth; Al-Shabaab).
Of all Al-Qa'ida Central's (AQC) regional affiliates and allies, AQAP is arguably the most capable in terms of both its in-country operations and potential to project power abroad.