February 12, 2010

Yemen's Intelligence Services Subverted by Al Qaeda

Yay, its not just me anymore. Now that the WaPo has an excellent article on the infiltration of al Qaeda to the Yemeni security and intelligence forces, I'm feeling a tad less lonely. Of course, some um, passport offices, financial exchange offices and other sensitive positions are currently held by "recently reformed" convicted al Qaeda operatives, not to mention the older bin Laden loyalists serving as governors and ambassadors, rewarded after the 1994 civil war. Jihaddis in ties, as I say.

There is one section of the Washington Post article seems to be getting a lot of play in Yemen so, just to be nice, I am posting the original entry from History Commons: first theres's 1990- 1998, Zawaheri frequently visits Yemen (Hello?) then as follows (PSO shelters Zawaheri) Spring-Summer 1998: Yemeni Officials Help Al-Qaeda with Knowledgeable Defector

Ahmed Nasrallah, a veteran al-Qaeda operative who has been in Yemen for several years, decides to defect and turn himself in to the Yemeni government. He discloses the location of al-Qaeda strongholds in Yemen and even gives away the location of al-Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a southern Yemeni town. He describes al-Qaeda’s weaponry, security, and violent plans for the future. He offers to spy on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or on a militant Yemeni group led by Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, a relative of hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. (In 1999 Zein will be caught and executed in Yemen for kidnappings and killings.) However, two officials in the Political Security Organization (Yemen’s equivalent of the FBI) have radical militant ties and hand over Nasrallah to al-Qaeda operatives. These operatives plan to kill him for betraying their group, but he escapes to Egypt before they can do so.
Somewhere down the History Commons page is likely 1999: Yemen releases Khalid bin Attash after deal with bin Laden, but that's also in the 9/11 Commission Report. Attash of course went on to have an instrumental role in the bombing of the USS Cole.

Yemen as a stagnant political system has many, most of the same players playing now as in the 1980's and '90's. For example, Ali Al Ansi, head of the National Security, has been Saleh's office manager since 1982. Head of the PSO, Al Qamish also has been around forever. So the argument that these close ties to bin Laden were a decade ago doesn't reassure me much. The article I wrote early in Feb. 2009 referencing a deal between Zawaheri and Yemeni President Saleh was based on current reporting but fits quite nicely into the overall pattern.

The second terror attack on the South Korean's in March 2009 wasn't a result of a small leak, just one subverted guy passing information, which is why even the Parliament started complaining openly. OK here's a bit from the excellent WaPo:

"Al-Qaeda has a very aggressive effort to get whatever information they can from those individuals (in the Political Security Organization)," said a senior Obama Administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In 2006, al-Qaeda militants broke out of a maximum-security prison in 2006. Today, senior Yemeni officials acknowledge that PSO officials with sympathies to al-Qaeda facilitated the jail break.

"It could not have happened without people deeply inside the PSO," said Abdul Karim al-Iriyani, a former prime minister and current political adviser to Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh...

Senior Yemeni officials said they do not believe that Surmi was an al-Qaeda infiltrator, but said he sought to abuse his position for financial again. Surmi, said Iriyani, was removed from his position partly because he ran a scheme in which, for $20,000 a person, he provided fake Yemeni passports and "shipped" non-Yemeni jihadists returning from Afghanistan to Europe or Latin America.

"He went to the highest bidder," added Iriyani. "He could easily have been hired by al-Qaeda."

Senior Yemeni officials publicly insist the PSO, which is responsible for day-to-day security in Yemen, is not infiltrated by Islamic extremists today.

"It's serving the country, and they are doing their job," said Mohammed al-Anisi, the nation's intelligence chief. (ed- this is another one, and his name is Ali Mohammed al Ansi). "These stories are totally wrong."

U.S. officials, though, remain concerned. And Yemeni counterterrorism officials are not taking chances. On Dec. 17, Yemeni forces, backed by the United States, launched an airstrike on suspected al-Qaeda militants in Abyan province as well as two raids in and around Sana'a. According to two senior Yemeni government officials briefed on the operation, the PSO was not informed of the operation until it was over.

Good Move!!!! But, sorry to say, its not just the PSO, its also the National Security. Here's the link to yesterday's excellent WaPo article, Saleh's ties to radical Salafis, well worth a read as well.

By Jane at 10:19 AM | Comments |