Yemen Claims it Thwarted al Qaeda Attack

Update: Not surprisingly, Yemen backtracks, calling the report false and baseless.

Yemen authorities now say they have thwarted a major planned al Qaida attack. The attack intended to shut down Yemen's oil exports.

a spokesman for the Yemeni authorities said they had thwarted a plot to blow oil pipelines and take control of two ports in the south, responsible for the bulk of Yemen's oil exports, according to the BBC.

The plot included using al-Qaeda gunmen dressed as soldiers to infiltrate the ports and a local security source said dozens of terrorists had arrived in the capital to prepare for the attack.

The BBC reports: [More...]

Yemeni government spokesman Rajeh Badi said the plot involved blowing up oil pipelines and taking control of certain cities - including two ports in the south, one of which accounts for the bulk of Yemen's oil exports and is where a number of foreign workers are employed.

"There were attempts to control key cities in Yemen like Mukala and Bawzeer," said Mr Badi. "This would be co-ordinated with attacks by al-Qaeda members on the gas facilities in Shebwa city and the blowing up of the gas pipe in Belhaf city."

The BBC reports the motive for the attack was the retaliation for the drone strike that killed AQAP's Saeed Ali al-Shihri (also spelled al Shehri), the former Guantanamo inmate who after release, went to a Saudi rehabilitation camp and then returned to Yemen to form AQAP and become its second in command.

A few weeks ago, AQAP announced his death but didn't say when he died. Here's the English translation of the statement by Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Rubaish. Al-Rubaish, like al Shehri, is a Saudi who was held at Guantanamo and after being returned to Saudi Arabia, went to Yemen. He is provides the “theological justification” for its AQAP's operations, and has been suggested as a successor to al Shehri.

Al-Shihri has been reported dead many times. The BBC today says al Shihri was wounded in a November, 2012 drone attack and later died of his wounds. He also reportedly was killed in a September, 2012 drone attack (Yemen announcement here) but in October, he released a video saying it was a lie.

He was also reported to have been killed in January, 2010, but that turned out to be his brother in law, Yousef Mohammed al-Shihri, who also was at Guantanamo with him. The retraction is here. Saeed al Shehri married Yousuf's sister Wafa after they returned to Saudi Arabia. Wafa later joined him in Yemen, along with her 3 kids, 2 from earlier marriages. The father of one of her sons, a 10 year old also named Yusuf, claimed he was kidnapped and tried for a long time to get him back. It's a long story, I tell it here. There were also reports the Yousef who was killed was Saaed's cousin or brother.

So when did Saeed al Shehri really die? In January, 2013, Yemen announced his death again, saying it occurred in a drone strike on November 28, 2012. This matches what the BBC is now reporting.

"The Supreme National Security Committee of the Republic of Yemen announced today the death of Sa'id al Shihri, known also by the pseudonym 'Abu Sufyan Alazdi', the cofounder and second-in-command (Deputy Emir) of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), after succumbing to wounds received in a counter terrorism operation in the governorate of Saadah on the 28th of November, 2012," read a statement that was translated by the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, DC.

At the time hs family said the drone strike that hit him happened in the second week of December, 2012, and that he died in January after lapsing into a coma. Another report of his death in January, 2013 from a drone strike in November is here. More reports of his numerous deaths are here.

No drone strikes were reported in Yemen between Nov. 8, 2012 and Dec. 23, 2012. However the US is known to have conducted a strike in Saada on Oct. 28, 2012. In that strike, US drones targeted two compounds, killing four AQAP fighters, including two Saudis.

In February, 2013, the Saudi newspapers said he died a few days before, and they were hoping Wafa would surrender. She was taken off Interpol's red list.

But in April, 2013, AQAP denied al Shehri was dead, and it released a tape by al Shehri, in which he refers to events occurring in Feburary, 2013.Here's the English translation of his statement. It’s not clear if the voice was ever confirmed to be al Shehri.

Yemen also claimed in 2010 that Quassim al Raymi, AQAP's military commander, whose brother was at Guantanamo, was killed which turned out not to be true. His whereabouts, as well as bomb-maker Ibrahim al Asiri, are currently unknown. I'd assume if there's an AQAP plot now in Yemen, both are involved.

In September, 2011, the Saudis announced al shehri's cousin, Osama al Sheri was killed.

Osama was assigned the mission of training members of his team on how to develop fighting skills. He was planning to return to the Kingdom to carry out a terrorist act. Two American officials said Thursday that the air strike carried out by a CIA drone killed a major Al-Qaeda leader in the tribal zone of Pakistan. He was described by American officials as the leader of Al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan and the coordinator between Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

I've written about al Sheri's stepson Yusuf many times, most recently here, wondering if his father ever got him back. Yesterday, I found this article from January 2013 saying his father, Saud Al-Qahtani, who tried to get him back and filed kidnapping charges against Wafa, was killed in a car accident. Yousef, who is 12 now, is apparently missing in Yemen.

Back to Yemen's announcement last night that the oil plot was retaliation for al Shehri's death. Is there any proof of this other than the word of a Yemeni official? Why did AQAP wait to announce al Shehri's death until last month? How does this relate to the alleged interception between al Zahawri and al Wuhayshi? Why do some reports refer to the interception as a conversation while others say it was a text message? Where are al Raymi and al Isiri?

Sources tell the BBC the U.S. is now expected to launch “strikes” against AQAP in Yemen.

The US is preparing special operations forces for possible strike operations against al-Qaeda in Yemen. Although the US has previously sent special forces to train counter-terrorist units, there are now suggestions that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), may be preparing units for strike operations, the sources said.

JSOC co-operates closely with the CIA, which has mounted four drone strikes in Yemen over the past 10 days.

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  • Display: Sort:
    It seems to me (none / 0) (#1)
    by Mikado Cat on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 06:53:01 AM EST
    that at some point in dealing with intelligence operations the general public has a great need to be able to "trust" the people who know what is happening are doing the right thing and I just don't see that as possible where we are right now.

    Is there anyone in current politics that is widely trusted?

    Individually I think many are fine people, but speaking in public its like they are lawyers defending their partisan affiliation.