Update: Al-Shihri says he's alive. So does a Yemen official:
The Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted an unnamed senior Yemeni defense ministry official as saying that DNA tests of the body have proved that the dead man was not al-Shihri.
Saeed Ali al-Shihri, 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, has been killed in Yemen. The Yemen News Agency announcement is here.
This isn't the first time Yemen has announced al-Shihiri is dead. More on Al-Shehri (also spelled al Shihri) and the other top AQAP leaders here. You can read his father's statements disowning him here.
Update: Yemen has deployed hundreds more troops to capture al-Alwaki.
Wanted, dead or alive: A Judge in Yemen has ordered Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a relative arrested "by any means" to face terrorism charges in connection with the killing of French engineer Jacques Spagnolo last month. The order was issued as hearings got underway in the trial of a third man accused of the murder. [More...]
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The news is filled with a terror scare today from two packages with explosives headed to synagogues in the U.S from Yemen. President Obama says it sounds like al Qaida Arab Peninsula. (AQAP.) The Guardian reports cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may be behind it.
I'm just getting to the news so I don't have any thoughts on it yet. Here's a thread to discuss it.
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Last week, there were other raids. They didn't kill any al Qaeda members, just a 65 year old man and two women. From the Yemen Observer:
Yemeni warplanes launched strikes in the Modia district of Abyan province on Tuesday, targeting locations believed to be home to al-Qaeda commander Abdul Munem al-Fahtani, according to the defense ministry website.
“The raids at Thaooba area, Modia district, killed a 65-year-old man and two women. No al-Qaeda members were killed,” a security official told Yemen Observer on a condition of anonymity.
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In the Sunday Times: a feature article on the Obama administration’s "shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies."
In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.
...The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya.
The Times calls it a stealth war on terror, and says while it began under Bush, it has expanded under Obama. It also points out the risks: [More...]
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The London Conference on Yemen begins at 1800 GMT. that's 1pm ET. The UK is streaming it live here. The meeting is being chaired by UK Foreign Secretary David Milbrand and will cover three themes:
- discussions of the challenges facing Yemen, including the drivers of radicalisation and instability, and agreement that a comprehensive approach is needed to address them
- greater impetus to the political and economic reform agenda, including urgent and concrete action by the Government of Yemen; and
- improved international coordination and support towards Yemen.
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With the announcement today of the return of a Uzbek Guantanamo Bay detainee to Switzerland, the population at Gitmo is now down to 192. Of them, almost half are from Yemen, more than 40 have been cleared for release.
One of the topics expected to be addressed tomorrow at the London conference on Yemen, is the creation of a Yemeni rehab program, similar to the Saudi program, so that the Yemeni detainees can leave Guantnamo. The Telegraph reports:
A source close to the Obama administration said the Yemenis had agreed in principle to the establishment of a Reintegration and Risk Reduction Initiative, which would be internationally funded and monitored. Aimed at steering detainees back into society, it would be modeled on previous efforts in Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
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The U.K. is hosting a conference Wednesday on how to help Yemen. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attending. (Here's a full list.) The State Department held a briefing today on Yemen. Here's the transcript.
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Yemen's Interior Ministry today confirmed that the military commander of AQAP, Qassem al-Rimi, was killed in yesterday's strike.
In a statement on its website, the ministry said Rimi had died when a missile struck his vehicle in the eastern part of Saada province. Also killed were Ayed al-Shabwani, Ammar al-Waili, Saleh al-Tais, Egyptian Ibrahim Mohammed Saleh al-Banna and an unidentified sixth person.
They believe AQAP leader Nasser al-Wahaishi is hiding in the area, along with cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Today, Yemen says it captured three more AQAP leaders near the Saudi border. No names yet.
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Marc Lynch has a new post at Foreign Policy, Don't Let Captain Underpants Bring Back the GWOT, on the mass over-hysteria about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his failed bomb plot on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
But is too much to ask that the national discourse over the failed bomber be more mature and analytical than "Captain Underpants vs Professor Poopypants "?
Lynch cites with approval this WAPO op-ed, "Don't Panic, Fear is Al Qaida's Real Goal," which is well-worth a read. He also correctly notes: [More...]
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David Kenner at Foreign Policy presents the top 4 bad guys in AQAP in Yemen with photos: there's the group's leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, former Guantanamo detainee Said al-Shehri (who was released into the Saudi Rehab program but left), Qasim al-Raymi and Hizam Mujali.
Gregory Johnson at Waq al-Waq says:
I think 'Adil al-'Abab, Ibrahim al-Rubaysh and Muhammad al-Rashad are much more important than Anwar al-'Awlaqi and Hizam Mujali. But there is little argument on the top three: Nasir al-Wahayshi, Said Ali al-Shihri and Qasimal-Raymi.
Johnson says al-Raymi is "the single most dangerous individual in the organization." While he was never at Gitmo, his brother is.
I also like this November, 2009 Australian think-tank study on the importance of AQAP's relationship with the tribes in Yemen.[More...]
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And so it begins. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today said they are halting the transfer of cleared detainees to Yemen:
"One of the very first things Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula used as a tool was Gitmo," Gibbs said. "We're not going to make transfers to a country like Yemen that they're not capable of handling (the detainees). While we remain committed to closing the detention facility, the determination has been made that right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea."
This is unacceptable. Many of these men have been held 9 years, without charges. Many should never have been arrested in the first place. Sending them to Illinois for more indefinite detention is not only unfair to them, it will engender further animosity towards the U.S. and further devalue our core values and principles. [More...]
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As al Qaida Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to dominate the news, more news organizations are coming out with primers. Here's one from The New Republic.
A major point that needs to be made more is that this is an off-shoot of the central al Qaida associated with Osama bin Laden.
AQAP represents what many consider Yemen's second generation of Al Qaeda--and while the group may have ties to "Al Qaeda central," the organization appears to act independently. Counterterrorism officials believe AQAP has learned from its recent past and built an organization that can withstand the loss of its leadership. Savvy in delivering its message, the group even has its own magazine, Salah al Malahim (The Echo of Battle), which covers everything from biographies of suicide bombers to advice columns on how to become an Al Qaeda foot soldier.
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The U.S. and U.K. closed their embassies in Yemen due to threats by al Qaida Arabian Peninsula (AQAP.)
The embassy statement is here.
Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan told ABC's This Morning:
“I spoke with our ambassador in Sana, Steve Seche, early this morning and last night, looked at the intelligence that is available as far as the plans for al Qaeda to carry out attacks in Sana, possibly against our embassy, possibly against U.S. personnel,” Mr. Brennan said. “We decided it was the prudent thing to do to shut the embassy.”
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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...]
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