December 28, 2009

Al Qaeda in Yemen: Summary and Context of Events

IN light of the recent developments in Yemen, I made a rough timeline of what we actually know happened in the last two weeks. There were two rounds of air raids on al Qaeda training camps in Yemen. First round was 12/17 on two targets: a camp north of the capital Sana'a in Arhab and another in Abyan that was near a Bedouin village. (And yes, the villagers had complained to the local officials who did nothing.) Al Qaeda leader Qasim al Reimi managed to slip away before the raid in Arhab. Yemeni officials claimed 60 al Qaeda were killed but some were al Qaeda family members or the nearby villagers.

Abyan is south Yemen, which has been in Intifada mode since 2007, with ever larger peaceful protests countered by live fire and mass arrests by security forces. Many southerners and opposition members of Parliament assumed the Yemeni government had begun bombing the south (under the guise of counter-terror) as is has been carpet bombing the north, with Saudi help, since August, creating massive displacement. The Yemeni government uses the terrorism card against its opponents regularly.

On Christmas Eve, there was another round of air strikes in Shabwa where internet jihaddist, Anwar Awlaki lives. The target was actually USS Cole bomber, Fahd al Quso's farm where a high level meeting was supposedly taking place to plot revenge for the first attack. None of the terror leaders were killed, and so far two casualties have been identified as Abdul al-Monim Salim Al-Qahtani and Muhammad Aldjadni Aldgari . Although the Yemeni government says 30 were killed, more reliable local reports put the number at seven.

On Christmas Day, a Nigerian tried to blow up a plane as it was landing in the US using explosives obtained from al Qaeda in Yemen, a type that had been previously used in a murder attempt on Saudi Prince Naif. (The Butt Bomber also used PETN.) An additional 25 Brits are thought to be under going training in Yemen for suicide missions in the west.

The al Qaeda training camps are well known and often supported by members of the government. We have pointed out the location of several camps here and the fact that they are often facilitated by the Yemeni intelligence services. Count on that. I have been whining for years about the fact that it is the Yemeni military that often provides the safe houses, training and passports to the jihaddists that travel to Iraq to attempt to kill US troops.

And while it is true that vast swaths of Yemen are beyond the government control, the thing the MSM is missing entirely is the Yemeni government uses al Qaeda as mercenaries in various ways. The Yemeni government has used al Qeda jihaddists since 2005 to fight the northern rebels in the Sa'ada war and to train tribal militias.

To follow, the latest ramblings from the Yemeni al Qaeda fanatics in response to the first air strike, posted at NEFA in which they condemn the raid in Abyan and

“And lastly, we call upon the proud tribes of Yemen—people of support and victory—and the people of the Arabian Peninsula, to face the crusader campaign and their cooperatives on the peninsula of Muhammad, prayer and peace upon him, and that’s through attacking their military bases, intelligence embassies, and their fleets that exist on the water and land of the Arabian Peninsula; until we stop the continuous massacres on the Muslim countries."

I've been concerned that al Qaeda in Yemen would launch some type of "naval jihad" against the assorted western navies which are on anti-piracy ops in the Bab al Mendab. To the extent that Somali and Yemeni al Qaeda are in contact, and the pirates are already paying for intel on where the ships are, the sea is a potential theater of operations as it was in both the 2000 USS Cole and 2002 Limburg attacks.

NEFA also notes in what seems a foreshadowing of the airliner plot: On October 29, 2009, Al-Qaida's network in Yemen (AQIY) released the 11th edition of their official magazine Sada al-Malahim, which included an article written by the top commander of AQIY, Abu Basir al-Wahishi, titled "War is a Trick." In the article, al-Wahishi advised would-be Al-Qaida members on how to utilize all available weapons to kill "apostates" and Western nationals. He urged them to target "airports in the western crusade countries that participated in the war against Muslims; or on their planes, or in their residential complexes or their subways."

For more history on al Qaeda in Yemen, you can also see my archive of articles that dates back to 2005 and outlines the Yemeni government's utilization and facilitation of al Qaeda.

By Jane at 11:01 AM | Comments |