Thursday, August 12, 2010

IN PICTURES: Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

AQAP fighters hold the black and white flag used by transnational jihadi-takfiris worldwide. It is emblazoned with the Muslim testament of faith (shahadah): "There is no god but [the One] God and Muhammad is His Messenger."

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.

'Uthman al-Ghamdi, a former Saudi inmate at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is an AQAP field commander.

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.

Sa'id al-Shihri, the Saudi deputy amir (leader) of AQAP and a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, is also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Sufyan al-Azdi.

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.

Qasim al-Raymi, AQAP's senior military commander, escaped from a San'a prison in February 2006 with AQAP's amir (leader), Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi.

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).

Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi, AQAP's amir

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.


Fahd al-Qus'o al-'Awlaqi (Fahd al-Quso), an apparent member of AQAP (he appeared in one of the group's 2010 videos), is wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for alleged involvement in the 2000 kamikaze boat attack on the USS Cole, a United States destroyer in the port of the southern Yemeni coastal city of Aden.

Muhammad al-'Awfi, the Saudi AQAP commander and former Guantanamo Bay inmate who surrendered to Saudi officials in Yemen in February 2009.

Anwar al-'Awlaqi, the radical American Muslim preacher who has been publicly embraced by AQAP amir Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi. Al-'Awlaqi has said that he was the "mentor" of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who murdered 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas, and failed Christmas Day 2010 bomber 'Umar Farouq 'Abdulmutallab.

AQAP documented its August 2009 defeat of Yemeni army units in Marib (Mareb), a place about three hours east of the capital city of San'a, in a video entitled Battle of Marib

AQAP fighters

AQAP deputy amir Sa'id al-Shihri

AQAP's senior military commander Qasim al-Raymi

AQAP's amir, Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi (left), meeting with the group's deputy amir, Sa'id al-Shihri.

AQAP's amir Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi

'Abdullah Hasan al-'Asiri, the young man who tried to assassinate the Saudi deputy minister of the interior and counter-terrorism chief, Prince Muhammad bin Nayyif, in August 2009.

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