AQAP and Terrorism Related Events in Yemen and Saudi Arabia

It's not easy learning about events that have been going on for some time in another country. Here is a chronological account of al Qaida Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other terror-related events in Yemen and Saudi Arabia I've compiled from the update section of the last ten issues of The Sentinel published this year. The Sentinel is the publication of The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. I'm mostly posting it as a reference point since I've been trying to get up to speed and want the information in one place, and the easiest way to do that is to post it.

The list includes events from from December, 2008 through November, 2009. [More...]

December 15, 2008 (YEMEN): Three Germans were kidnapped by Bani Dhabyan tribesmen in Dhamar Province. The Germans consist of an aid worker and her visiting mother and father. – AP, December 18

December 19, 2008 (YEMEN): Three German citizens being held by tribesmen in Yemen were released to authorities. According to an Agence France-Presse report, “Unconfirmed reports on a Yemeni Internet site, Marebnews, said the mediator had promised a ransom of 100,000 dollars and an assurance that the kidnapper would not face prosecution.” – AFP, December 20

January 19, 2009 (YEMEN): Yemen’s official state news agency reported that government forces killed two suspected al-Qa`ida militants and wounded a third during a raid in Sana`a. A fourth al-Qa`ida member part of the cell escaped. – Reuters, January 20

January 23, 2009 (YEMEN): A U.S. counterterrorism official told reporters that a Saudi militant released from Guantanamo Bay has become a leading figure in the Yemen branch of al-Qa`ida. The militant, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, was released to Saudi authorities in 2007. – AP, January 23

January 26, 2009 (YEMEN): The U.S. Embassy in Sana`a released a warden’s message, stating that “the U.S. embassy has received a threat against the embassy compound regarding a possible attack which could take place in the foreseeable future. U.S. citizens in Yemen are advised to exercise caution and take prudent security measures in all areas frequented by Westerners.” – AFP, January 26

January 26, 2009 (YEMEN): Police exchanged fire with gunmen in a car at a checkpoint near the U.S. Embassy in Sana`a. The gunmen fled the scene, and there were no injuries. The incident occurred after the U.S. Embassy released a warden’s message warning that threats were made against the facility. – AP, January 27

January 27, 2009 (YEMEN): Al-Qa`ida’s factions in Yemen and Saudi Arabia announced that they are merging their operations. The deputy of the new consolidated group has been identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, who was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2007. – al-Jazira, January 28 January 28,

February 2, 2009 (SAUDI ARABIA): The Saudi government issued a list of 85 wanted militants based outside of the country. Authorities said the men had “adopted the straying ideology,” which signifies that they are suspected of al-Qa`ida involvement. The government called on the men to turn themselves in overseas to “return to a normal life.” Out of the group, 83 are Saudis and two are Yemenis. Saudi officials also announced that 11 Saudis who were released from Guantanamo Bay and subsequently passed through the Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists have left the country and joined terrorist groups abroad. – Reuters, February 2; New York Times, February 3

February 8, 2009 (YEMEN): A Yemeni security official told reporters that authorities have decided to release 176 people suspected of having ties to al-Qa`ida. Of the group, 95 were freed on February 6. According to the BBC, “The ruling excludes those convicted of terrorism, unless they have completed their sentence.” – AFP, February 8; BBC, February 8

February 10, 2009 (GLOBAL): Interpol issued a rare “orange” global security alert for 85 suspected al-Qa`ida-linked terrorists wanted by Saudi Arabia. On February 2, the Saudi government issued a list of 85 wanted militants based outside of the country. – CNN, February 11

February 10, 2009 (YEMEN): The Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C., released a statement denying a February 8 report which claimed it released more than 170 al-Qa`ida suspects from its prisons. The new statement said that authorities have released 108 prisoners, but they were “not affiliated in any way to al Qaeda.” – CNN, February 10

February 17, 2009 (SAUDI ARABIA): Muhammad al-Awfi, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay who became an al-Qa`ida commander after his release, turned himself in to Saudi authorities. Last month, al-Awfi appeared in an al-Qa`ida video claiming that he had joined al-Qa`ida in Yemen. He allegedly turned himself in to Yemeni authorities after securing his repatriation to Saudi Arabia. – Reuters, February 17

February 19, 2009 (SAUDI ARABIA): Alleged al-Qa`ida operative and Saudi national Ahmed Owaidan al-Harbi was handed over to Saudi authorities after he was arrested in eastern Yemen. – AP, February 19

February 19, 2009 (YEMEN): Al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi released a new audio message urging Yemenis to rise up against the government. – AP, February 19

March 15, 2009 (YEMEN): Four South Korean tourists were killed in a suicide bombing in Hadramawt Province. Two Yemenis were also killed. The Yemeni government blamed al-Qa`ida for the attack and claimed that the bomber was trained in neighboring Somalia. – AP, March 15; BBC, March 15; AFP, March 16; Reuters, March 17

March 15, 2009 (YEMEN): Yemen’s Interior Ministry announced that they recently captured Abdullah Abdul-Rahman Mohammed al-Harbi, one of the most wanted militants in Saudi Arabia. Al-Harbi was apprehended in Taiz Province. – Saba, March 15

March 18, 2009 (YEMEN): A suicide bomber attacked a convoy of South Korean officials investigating the March 15 attack that killed four Korean tourists in Yemen. The South Korean ambassador to Yemen was in the convoy at the time of the latest attack. No one in the convoy was injured. – AP, March 18

March 25, 2009 (YEMEN): Yemen’s Interior Ministry released a statement claiming it had arrested six men for plotting attacks against foreigners in the country. The statement said that the men were recruited by al-Qa`ida. – AP, March 25

April 7, 2009 (SAUDI ARABIA): Saudi security forces arrested 11 alleged al-Qa`ida militants operating from a hideout near the border with Yemen. The men were allegedly planning to attack police installations, conduct armed robberies and kidnap people in Saudi Arabia. Explosive suicide belts were uncovered during the operation. – BBC, April 7; Reuters, April 7

April 13, 2009 (YEMEN): Yemeni tribesmen released two Dutch hostages who were kidnapped on March 31. It appears a ransom was paid. According to Reuters, “Tribesmen often kidnap Western tourists in Yemen...to pressure the government to provide better services and improve living conditions.” – Reuters, April 13

May 27, 2009 (UNITED STATES): The U.S. Defense Department confirmed that five percent of former Guantanamo Bay detainees have returned to the fight against the United States and its allies. – AFP, May 27

June 14, 2009 (YEMEN): Yemeni authorities announced the arrest of a Saudi al-Qa`ida financier who they consider “one of the most dangerous members of al-Qa`ida.” The financier, Hassan Hussein bin Alwan, was arrested the previous week. – AFP, June 14

June 15, 2009 (YEMEN): The mutilated bodies of two German nurses and a South Korean teacher were discovered by shepherds in Yemen’s Saada region. Later in the day, six other foreigners were found dead. The nine foreigners—who all worked for World Wide Services Foundation, a Dutch relief group—disappeared on June 12. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the murders. – Independent, June 15; Christian Science Monitor, June 15; AP, June 15

June 18, 2009 (YEMEN): A Saudi al-Qa`ida suspect, Nayif Yahya al-Harbi, turned himself in to Yemeni authorities, according to Yemen’s Defense Ministry. – Reuters, June 18

July 13, 2009 (YEMEN): A Yemeni court sentenced six suspected al-Qa`ida militants to death for their role in a series of deadly attacks on government and Western targets in Yemen. Another 10 defendants, including a Saudi and four Syrians, received sentences ranging from eight to 15 years in jail on the same charges. The group was convicted of carrying out the January 2008 attack that killed two Belgian female tourists, a March 2008 attack that targeted the U.S. Embassy in Sana`a, and a rocket attack on a compound housing U.S. oil workers. The men were all accused of having ties to al-Qa`ida. – AFP, July 13; Guardian, July 13

July 30, 2009 (YEMEN): Al-Qa`ida militants ambushed an army truck in Yemen’s Marib Province, killing two Yemeni soldiers and seizing military ammunition and equipment. Authorities then stormed the militants’ hideout and killed A’ed Saleh al-Shabwani, one of the militant leaders. A soldier was also killed in the fighting. – AFP, July 31

August 21, 2009 (UNITED STATES): A U.S. federal judge ordered the release of Muhammad al-Adahi, a Yemeni who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. The judge ruled that al-Adahi’s brief time at an al-Qa`ida training camp and two encounters with Usama bin Ladin was not enough to justify his continued detention. – Washington Post, August 21

August 27, 2009 (SAUDI ARABIA): A suicide bomber attempted to assassinate Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayif. Nayif was slightly wounded in the attack. Al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed credit for the operation, and it identified the bomber as Abdullah Hassan Taleh Asiri. The bomber traveled across the Saudi border from Yemen. – AP, August 27; AFP, August 30

October 4, 2009 (GLOBAL): Al-Qa`ida deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in a new video message vowing to kill more Westerners to avenge “crimes” against Muslims. – AFP, October 5

October 13, 2009 (SAUDI ARABIA): Two suspected al-Qa`ida militants and a Saudi police officer were killed at a checkpoint in Saudi Arabia, 75 miles from the city of Jizan. The al-Qa`ida militants, who were both shot to death, were wearing vests packed with explosives. A third militant was arrested. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry later said that the men entered Saudi Arabia from neighboring Yemen to carry out “an imminent criminal act.” – BBC, October 13; Bloomberg, October 18

October 17, 2009 (YEMEN): Yemen’s state security court began trial for seven suspected al-Qa`ida members. The defendants are accused of forming an armed group to carry out criminal acts and target foreign tourists and Western interests in Yemen, in addition to targeting the government and security forces. – Saba, October 17

November 1, 2009 (GLOBAL): The leader of al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula called on militants to bomb airports and trains in Western countries, explaining that explosives can easily be acquired from household materials. Nasir al-Wahayshi, the leader of the group, wrote in the jihadist magazine Sada al-Malahim that “you do not need to exert great effort or spend a lot of money to make 10 grams of explosives, more or less. Do not spend a long time searching for materials as they already exist in your mother’s kitchen. Make them [explosives] in the shape of a bomb you hurl, or detonate through a timer or a remote detonator or a martyrdom-seeker belt or any electrical appliance.” Al-Wahayshi also wrote that “it is a duty that a Muslim mujahid be busy planning to reap the heads of infidels.” – Reuters, November 2

November 3, 2009 (YEMEN): Suspected al-Qa`ida militants killed seven members of Yemen’s security forces in eastern Hadramawt Province. The men were ambushed as they traveled back from a post on the Saudi Arabian border. Three of the dead were senior officers, including the chief of the Political Security Organization for Hadramawt Province, the regional security chief, and the head of the regional criminal investigation division. Al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula later took credit for the attack. According to the New York Times, which referred to an official Yemeni government statement, “The assailants opened fire on the motorcade’s lead vehicle as it passed through the town of Kashm Alein in the Alabr district, causing the vehicle to collide with an oncoming truck in the opposite lane and burst into flames.” – BBC, November 4; Reuters, November 5; New York Times, November 3

November 15, 2009 (YEMEN): Takeo Mashimo, a 63-year-old Japanese engineer, was kidnapped near Sana`a by tribesmen seeking to exchange him for one of their relatives held by police. – AFP, November 22

November 23, 2009 (YEMEN): Japanese engineer Takeo Mashimo, who was kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen near Sana`a on November 15, was released after a week of captivity. The release occurred after negotiations by Yemen’s government. – AP, November 23

November 26, 2009 (YEMEN): Al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula released a new video showing the corpse of abducted Yemeni security official Bassam Tarbush. According to Reuters, “The video showed group members preparing to shoot Tarbush, kidnapped in June according to Yemeni media, for spying on Islamic militants, but the actual shooting was not shown. The footage later carried a still photograph apparently showing his corpse with facial cuts.” – Reuters, November 26

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