Entries in aqap (6)


Gitmo Detainee Turned Terror Commander Killed: Reports

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An al Qaeda terror commander, who was released from Guantanamo Bay to join an art-based "jihadi rehab" program only to return to the fight as a high-ranking member of al Qaeda's Yemen branch, has been killed, according to Yemen's state-run media.

Said al-Shihri, a Saudi national considered by the U.S. government to be the number two man in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was taken out in an airstrike along with six other militants, Yemen's Saba news agency reported today, citing security officials. DNA tests reportedly had not been done to confirm al-Shihri's death.

Al-Shihri, a "veteran jihadist," traveled to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to fight coalition troops, only to be captured weeks later, according to West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. He was sent to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he stayed for six years before being released to Saudi Arabia. There, he entered a so-called "jihadi rehab" program that attempted to turn terrorists into art students by getting them to get "negative energy out on paper," as the program's director told ABC News in 2009.

But just months after he supposedly entered the fingerpainting camp, al-Shihri reappeared in Yemen where he was suspected to have been behind a deadly bombing at the U.S. embassy there.

At the time, critics of the "jihadi rehab" program used al-Shihri as evidence that extremists would just go through the motions in order to be freed.

"They basically schmooze or con their way out of the system and then they get out," former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said in the 2009 ABC News report.

Before his release from Guantanamo, al-Shihri had told his captors that should he be freed, he would return to Saudi Arabia to work in his family's furniture store, according to detention documents posted online by The New York Times.

Since before Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011, U.S. security officials have warned that al Qaeda's regional arms -- especially AQAP -- represented a greater danger to the U.S. than the traditional "core" of the terror organization over which bin Laden presided.

Officials at the CIA, whose drone program U.S. officials say was responsible for the death of another high-profile AQAP member in April, declined to comment for this report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Yemeni Army Regains Control of Towns Turned into Al Qaeda Strongholds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SANAA, Yemen) -- Al Qaeda militants were driven from two towns in Yemen on Tuesday, a major coup for the government, which has dealt with the rising influence of the terrorist group.

Yemen's southern province has been a major stronghold for al Qaeda since the uprising known as the Arab Spring unsettled the region early last year.

However, the Yemeni army has recently stepped up attacks against terrorist fighters and by early Tuesday regained control of the town of Jaar as most al Qaeda gunmen fled rather than confront an overwhelming force.

Hours later, a Yemeni general said that the town of Zinjibar was also in the military's hands, proclaiming "al Qaeda fighters have fled the city after the noose was tightened on them."

According to the army, at least 26 al Qaeda militants were killed in the two operations, while four Yemeni soldiers also died.

Al Qaeda later released a statement that insisted it left the towns "not under military pressure but rather to prevent the further bloodshed of Muslims."

It was exactly a month ago that Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi ordered a major operation to take back towns and cities lost to al Qaeda in the country's southern province.

The U.S., which supports efforts against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is headquartered in Yemen, has also lent its support in the way of equipment and training.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Officials: AQAP Still a Major Threat to Homeland

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Although Anwar Al-Awlaki's death is a significant blow to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group remains a threat to the United States, National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen said Thursday in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

"Without question, his death has dealt a major blow to the external operations of al Qaeda's most operational affiliate, yet we assess that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a significant threat to the homeland," Olsen said.

"Awlaki was the leader of external operations," FBI director Robert Mueller said. "He had taken a lead role planning and directing attacks on the homeland."

"Along with Samir Khan, Awlaki was committed to inspiring acts of terrorism from overseas...using the Internet to promote lone actor operations against the West. Despite this blow to their leadership, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a significant threat to the homeland and we must maintain our vigilance in responding to this threat," Mueller said.

"A strike against its leadership, even a significant one, does not eliminate the potential for retaliation and other acts," Mueller said.

Making reference to the ongoing instability in Yemen, Olsen said, AQAP's "gains and the regime's governing challenges are increasing our concerns about the groups capability to conduct additional attacks targeting the homeland and U.S. interests overseas, as well as our concerns about the group's continuing propaganda efforts designed to inspire like-minded Western extremists."

Olsen testified before the House Intelligence Committee that even with Awlaki's death, he was concerned about information showing the continued links between AQAP and al-Shabaab in East Africa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Al Qaeda Leader in Yemen Pledges Allegiance to Zawahiri

-/AFP/Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- In a 10-minute audio message posted on Islamist websites Tuesday, the head of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate vowed loyalty to Osama bin Laden's successor and promised to keeping fighting against Yemen's American-allied government.

On behalf of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasser al-Wahishi officially recognized Ayman al-Zawahiri as the new global leader of al Qaeda. Zawahiri, a 60-year-old Egyptian doctor, was proclaimed the terror group's chieftain one month after bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in a May 1 raid on his Pakistani compound.

"I give you allegiance of obedience in good and hard times, in ease and difficulty," says the message, "and in fighting the enemies of Allah as much as I can -- myself and your loyal soldiers who are with me [on] the Arabian Peninsula."

Both Saudi Arabia and Yemen consider Wahishi among their most wanted terrorists. Wahishi served as Osama bin Laden's secretary in Afghanistan until 2001. He was arrested in Iran and handed over to Yemen. With 22 other captives, he escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006.

In the new audio messages, Wahishi also says that AQAP would keep fighting until it overthrows the government of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for more than three decades. Saleh was badly wounded by shrapnel in June, and has endured months of public protest against his regime, but has not relinquished power.

The audio's release comes a day after Yemeni government forces killed a top AQAP commander and nearly 20 other militants in southern Yemen, according to government claims that were later confirmed by tribal leaders.

AQAP and radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki have been linked to multiple terror attacks on U.S. targets in the past two years, including the Fort Hood massacre, the failed "underwear" bombing of Northwest flight 253 over Detroit and the printer bomb plot, in which bombs shipped by cargo plane were intercepted before they reached their targets in the U.S.

With the aid of the Saleh government, the U.S. has used airstrikes to try to kill Awlaki. A U.S. missile strike in Southern Yemen just days after bin Laden's death just missed Awlaki.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Young American Editor Gives Blueprint for Destroying Buildings

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The latest edition of al Qaeda's English-language web magazine offers readers a new fatwa from American-born jihadi leader Anwar al-Awlaki, instructions on how to destroy buildings using gas lines, and a primer on the AK-47 rifle, in what is Inspire's slickest production to date.

The fourth issue of Inspire, a publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terror organization's Yemeni branch, follows three previous installments in the past year that gave instructions on the killing American civilians, and boasted about the failed "printer bomb" cargo plane plot that originated in Yemen. A young American citizen from North Carolina named Samir Khan apparently began editing and publishing the on-line magazine after relocating to Yemen.

In this edition, Yemeni-American radical cleric Awlaki issues a religious justification for taking money and property from Americans and citizens of other Western nations. Awlaki is at the top of the U.S. government's "kill list" because of his operational involvement in AQAP.

Awlaki's message appears intended to assuage any concerns that American and European jihadis might have about resisting taxes and stealing from corporations.

"Some Muslims today might feel uncomfortable consuming money that was seized by force from the disbelievers and would feel that income they receive as a salary or from business is a better form of income," Awlaki writes. "That is not true. The best and purest form of income is booty."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Awlaki: ‘The Most Dangerous Man in The World’

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Anwar Awlaki, not Osama Bin Laden, was labeled the "most dangerous man in the world" by a New York Police Department counterterror official during a briefing Wednesday.

The description of the U.S. born, Yemen-based cleric and al Qaeda recruiter came as British officials announced that forensic evidence shows at least one of the two printer bombs shipped from Yemen by al Qaeda could have blown up over the eastern U.S. as they were brought by cargo plane to Chicago.

The bombs, which were placed inside toner cartridges, were shipped on FedEx and UPS cargo flights to Chicago addresses late last month. In a statement by London police, however, authorities now believe the bomb that was discovered in the United Kingdom was intended to explode mid air, while the plane carrying it was somewhere over the eastern seaboard of the US.

"Forensic examination has indicated that if the device had activated it would have been at 10:30 hours BST (0930 GMT) on Friday, 29 October 2010," London police said in their statement, meaning the bomb would have detonated at 5:30 a.m. "If the device had not been removed from the aircraft the activation could have occurred over the eastern seaboard of the U.S."

At a briefing on the parcel bombs and on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni al Qaeda affiliate that claimed credit for the bombing, Lt. Kevin Yorke of the NYPD's Intelligence Division, said of AQAP operative Awlaki, "If you look at his terrorist resume for the things he's been involved with you can really call him the most dangerous man in the world."

Awlaki, an AQAP operative, has been linked to many plots against U.S. citizens, including last year's Ft. Hood shooting and the attempted Christmas Day "underwear" bombing of Northwest flight 253. Earlier this week, Awlaki released a video statement saying that no one needs special religious permission to kill Americans because they are "devils" and the "enemy."

Earlier this year, President Obama signed a directive ordering that Awlaki -- a dual U.S.-Yemeni citizen -- be killed by the CIA or military Special. Awlaki's father, a former Yemeni diplomat, has sued the U.S. government to prevent the order from being followed, claiming that the directive violates his son's due process rights under the Constitution. There is a hearing on the suit in Washington this afternoon.

Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, had long been of interest to American law enforcement authorities because of his apparent ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers. When he returned to Yemen several years ago after living in the U.S. and the U.K., intelligence authorities say he became an operative for AQAP.

Efforts to locate Awlaki intensified last year after the Ft. Hood shooting, which left 13 dead. Army Major Nidal Hasan, charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the case, was in email contact with Awlaki before the shooting, and Awlaki later publicly praised Hasan for the rampage.
After the attempted "underwear" bombing of Northwest flight 253 over Detroit last Christmas, authorities said suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had trained in Yemen and had been in contact with Awlaki. Shortly after the attempted underwear bomb, the White House authorized the lethal order on Awlaki.

Awlaki's stature in AQAP, first as a radical preacher, then as an operational figure, has made the cleric as wanted by U.S. forces as Osama bin Laden. According to one former official, the Obama White House has told governments in the Middle East that they are desperate to kill Awlaki.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio