Also Known As:
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the union of al-Qaeda’s branches in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. AQAP has carried out violent jihadist attacks both domestically and internationally in service of al-Qaeda’s ideology. Although the group carries out most of its attacks inside Yemen, AQAP is widely known for carrying out the fatal shooting at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, as well as for its involvement in terrorist plots on U.S. soil, including the “Christmas Day Bomber” in 2009 and the “Times Square Bomber” in 2010.
After Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s removal from office in early 2012, AQAP took advantage of the fractured political scene by establishing an insurgency in southern Yemen. Since Yemen descended into civil war in 2015, AQAP has benefited from the political vacuum by attempting to develop its own pseudo-state in the southern region. The civil war has coincidentally strengthened AQAP by causing Western forces to withdraw and the Yemeni and Saudi Arabia forces to focus on the opposing Houthi rebels.Katharine Zimmerman, “AQAP: A Resurgent Threat,” Combating Terrorism Center, September 11, 2015, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/aqap-a-resurgent-threat. The United States responded with an expanded counterterrorism campaign, consisting primarily of drone strikes against AQAP leaders.
AQAP operates throughout Yemen, primarily in the country’s southern and central regions.Joshua Koontz, “AQAP’s Opportunism in Yemen: Benefit or Bust?,” Cipher Brief, November 16, 2016, https://www.thecipherbrief.com/column/agenda-setter/aqaps-opportunism-yemen-benefit-or-bust-1089;
“Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?,” BBC News, October 14, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423. In many of these provinces, AQAP governs small pockets of territory with sharia (Islamic law) courts and a heavily armed militia. AQAP attempts to appeal to the Yemeni people by meeting their basic needs and integrating into the local population, including by conforming to the local governance structures. In addition to controlling territory in Yemen, AQAP is believed to pose a major terrorist threat to the United States.Katharine Zimmerman, “AQAP: A Resurgent Threat,” Combating Terrorism Center, September 11, 2015, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/aqap-a-resurgent-threat;
Yara Bayoumy, Noah Browning, Mohammed Ghobari, “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger – and richer,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/yemen-aqap/.
In the group’s inaugural video in 2009, AQAP’s former leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi announced the merging of al-Qaeda affiliates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen to form AQAP. In the video, Wuhayshi formally declared the group’s intention to avenge its enemies “with blood and destruction,” in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate and implement Sharia law.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224829.htm.
Wuhayshi ended his opening speech with prayers tailored to AQAP’s goals:
“O Allah! Bring conquest over the Holy Mosque and the Haramain [highway from Mecca to Medina] by our hands! O Allah Give us the honor by establishing the Islamic State with our hands!”“Qaeda: English: “From Here We Begin…and at Al-Aqsa We Meet” World Analysis, February 19, 2009, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=212.
An AQAP document from 2012 expanded on these objectives. According to the document, AQAP’s primary goals are to “[e]xpel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula” and “[e]stablish the Islamic Caliphate and Shari’ah rule which the apostate governments have suspended.”“Who Are the Mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula?” Treadstone 71, last modified January 14, 2012, https://www.treadstone71.com/index.php/osint/osint-intel/free-whitepapers/view_document/34-who-are-the-mujahideen-of-the-arabian-peninsula.
In pursuing these ends, AQAP champions a violent interpretation of jihad and offers a number of ways Muslims can support its agenda, such as “[i]nform[ing] the Mujahideen [jihadists] about spies and the presence of Jews, Christians and the greatest criminals.” AQAP also encourages Muslims to “[b]e hostile to and hate the infidel” and “[r]aise children to love Jihad.”“Who Are the Mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula?” Treadstone 71, last modified January 14, 2012, https://www.treadstone71.com/index.php/osint/osint-intel/free-whitepapers/view_document/34-who-are-the-mujahideen-of-the-arabian-peninsula.
As a formal affiliate of al-Qaeda, AQAP’s ideology and practices fall in line with al-Qaeda’s broader goals of working towards global Islamist domination. AQAP seeks to execute its Islamist mission through violent jihad, and is believed to be the al-Qaeda affiliate most ideologically similar to al-Qaeda’s core.Scott Stewart, “Al Qaeda’s Leadership in Yemen,” Stratfor, May 12, 2011, http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110511-al-qaeda-leadership-yemen#axzz3Q7H5gtWc.. Although the group is based in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, members have attempted to carry out terrorist plots worldwide.
According to a 2010 report from the think-tank New America, AQAP is “compartmentalized and hierarchical, with a distinct division of labor. It has a political leader who provides overall direction, a military chief to plan operational details, a propaganda wing that seeks to draw in recruits, and a religious branch that tries to justify attacks from a theological perspective while offering spiritual guidance.”Barak Barfi, “Yemen on the Brink?: The Resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen,” New America Foundation, January 2010, 2. http://www.newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/Barfi.pdf.
AQAP is headed by its co-founder, Qasim al-Raymi. Raymi filled this position on June 16, 2015, one day after former AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi died in a U.S. drone strike. Little is known about Raymi’s specific role, but it is suspected that he has inherited Wuhayshi’s responsibilities.“Designations of AQAP Leaders Qasim al-Rimi and Nayif al-Qahtani,” U.S. Department of State, May 11, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143206.htm; Khaled Wassef, “Al Qaeda’s new No. 1 in Yemen is no lackey,” CBS News, June 17, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/aqap-chief-qassem-al-rimi-is-no-lackey-to-fill-in-for-nasir-al-wuhayshi-killed-in-us-airstrike/; Jane Onyanga-Omara, “Al-Qaeda second-in-command killed in U.S. airstrike,” USA Today, June 17, 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/06/16/al-qaeda-says-leader-killed/28796037/. Wuhayshi was responsible for directing AQAP’s entire program, as well as overseeing all of its individual branches. According to a classified U.S. State Department cable published by WikiLeaks, Wuhayshi’s duties specifically included “approving targets, recruiting new members, allocating resources to training and attack planning, and tasking others to carry out attacks.”“Public Library of US Diplomacy: Instruction for USUN to Request UN 1267 Listing of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and Top Leaders,” January 12, 2010, http://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10STATE2607_a.html/.
The group’s military branch plans all of AQAP’s violent attacks, such as bomb and suicide missions, as well as guerilla attacks against the Yemeni government and military. It also organizes AQAP’s kidnapping operations and robberies. Crucial to AQAP’s military branch is its chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri. Asiri is responsible for AQAP’s most high-profile bombing attempts, including the “Christmas Day Bomber” attempt in 2009 and the “Times Square Bomber” attempt in 2010.
AQAP relies heavily on its propaganda branch to attract recruits and build its base of support. This branch is also responsible for outreach beyond AQAP’s base in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. One of AQAP’s most notorious recruiters is Anwar al-Awlaki, who directed the “Christmas Day Bomber” in 2009Peter Finn, “Al-Awlaki Directed Christmas ‘Underwear Bomber’ Plot, Justice Department Memo Says,” Washington Post, February 10, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/al-awlaki-directed-christmas-underwear-bomber-plot-justice-department-memo-says/2012/02/10/gIQArDOt4Q_story.html. and was linked to the Fort Hood shooter in 2009Larry Shaughnessy, “Hasan’s e-mail exchange with al-Awlaki; Islam, money and matchmaking,” CNN, July 20, 2012, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/20/hasans-e-mail-exchange-with-al-awlaki-islam-money-and-matchmaking/. and the “Times Square Bomber” in 2010.Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, “Times Sq. Bomber Is Linked to Militant Cleric,” New York Times, May 6, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/world/middleeast/07awlaki-.html. AQAP has a media channel entitled “al-Malahem,” which has been called AQAP’s “official propaganda arm.”Thomas Joscelyn, “AQAP seeks to capitalize on anti-Israeli sentiment in new English-language magazine,” Long War Journal, August 17, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/08/aqap_seeks_to_capita.php. Al-Malahem publishes a bi-monthly magazine in Arabic directed at its Yemeni audience, as well as an English-language periodical called Inspire directed at its American audience.Thomas Joscelyn, “AQAP seeks to capitalize on anti-Israeli sentiment in new English-language magazine,” Long War Journal, August 17, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/08/aqap_seeks_to_capita.php.
AQAP also publishes al-Masra, a digital newsletter that is released several times per month. Though al-Masra is produced by AQAP, it includes news updates on the entire al-Qaeda network. For recruitment purposes, al-Masra also provides al-Qaeda’s take on high-profile political developments in Western countries.William Watkison, “Al-Qaeda has used the Alton Sterling police shooting in latest magazine, say SITE,” International Business Times, July 8, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/al-qaeda-uses-alton-sterling-police-shooting-latest-magazine-say-site-1569533?utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=rss&utm_content=/rss/yahoous/news&yptr=yahoo;
Thomas Joscelyn, “Did al Qaeda exchange former Pakistani army chief’s son for Zawahiri’s daughters?,” Long War Journal, September 2, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/did-al-qaeda-exchange-former-pakistani-army-chiefs-son-for-zawahiris-daughters.php.
AQAP’s religious branch was headed by senior cleric and former Guantanamo detainee Ibrahim al-Rubaish. As “mufti” of AQAP, Rubaish carried the authority within AQAP to issue fatwas (religious rulings). Rubaish also released public statements in response to prominent religious clerics from around the world in order to advocate for AQAP’s behavior and seek to justify its violent ideology.“AQAP Officials Nadhari and Rubeish Denounce Slandering of Scholars,” SITE, July 7, 2014, http://ent.siteintelgroup.com/Multimedia/aqap-officials-nadhari-and-rubeish-denounce-slandering-of-scholars.html; “AQAP Ideologue Criticizes Latest Speech by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,” SITE, August 26, 2013, http://ent.siteintelgroup.com/Statements/aqap-ideologue-criticizes-latest-speech-by-king-abdullah-of-saudi-arabia.html; “AQAP Official Asks Scholar to Reconsider Fatwa Denouncing Group,” SITE, October 22, 2012, http://ent.siteintelgroup.com/Jihadist-News/aqap-official-asks-scholar-to-reconsider-fatwa-denouncing-group.html. In this way, AQAP’s religious branch serves as an extension of its propaganda branch. As AQAP anticipates the eventual institution of sharia (Islamic law), the group also maintains a designated religious expert. On April 13, 2015, AQAP claimed that their former religious expert, Ibrahim al-Rubaish was killed in a U.S. airstrike near the southern coastal city of Mukalla.“Targeting Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” Soufan Group, April 16, 2015, http://soufangroup.com/tsg-intelbrief-targeting-al-qaeda-in-yemen; Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, “AQAP announces death of sharia official in US drone strike,” Long War Journal, April 14, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/04/aqap-announces-death-of-sharia-official-in-us-drone-strike.php. His death was not confirmed by U.S. officials and AQAP has not publicly announced his replacement.Bill Roggio, “Estimated number of Guantanamo recidivists continues to rise,” September 16, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/estimated-number-of-guantanamo-recidivists-continues-to-rise.php;
Sarah El Deeb, “Yemen al-Qaida branch says top cleric killed in drone attack,” Associated Press, April 14, 2015, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/b5ef017dedd54d7986a67fd913b94f4b/yemens-al-qaida-branch-says-its-top-cleric-has-been-killed.
According to the U.S. State Department, AQAP’s funding comes primarily from two sources: “robberies and kidnap for ransom operations.”“Country Report on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224829.htm. In a 2012 letter to Algerian allies, AQAP founder Nasir al-Wuhayshi wrote that “most of the battle costs, if not all, were paid for through the spoils. Almost half the spoils [for a year-long operation in Yemen] came from hostages.” Wuhayshi then called kidnapping “an easy spoil, which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.”Rukmini Kalamachi, “Yemen Terror Boss Left Blueprint for Waging Jihad,” Associated Press, August 9, 2013, http://www.ap.org/Content/AP-In-The-News/2013/Yemen-terror-boss-left-blueprint-for-waging-jihad.
In addition to taking hostages, AQAP relies heavily on heists and armed robberies. In August 2009, WikiLeaks revealed that suspected AQAP members stole an estimated $500,000 in a single heist.“09SANAA1632, AQAP Lifts $500K in Aden Heist?” WikiLeaks, September 2, 2009, http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/09/09SANAA1632.html. There have also been reports of AQAP partaking in gun and drug smuggling. According to Yemeni analyst Ahmad Abd Allah al-Sufi, the group has trafficked opium.Barak Barfi, “Yemen on the Brink? The Resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen,” New America Foundation, January 2010, 2, http://www.newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/Barfi.pdf.
AQAP held Yemen’s third-largest port from April 2015 to April 2016, which allegedly generated millions of dollars for the group. The southeastern Yemeni port city of Mukalla purportedly housed 1,000 AQAP fighters, who controlled nearly 375 miles of the coastline. According to Yemeni officials and local tribal leaders, AQAP fighters patrolled the waters off its controlled coast and imposed taxes and tariffs on passing ships.Yara Bayoumy, Noah Browning, Mohammed Ghobari, “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger – and richer,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/yemen-aqap/. In this way, the terrorist group has reportedly generated between another two to five million a day from its port revenue.Yara Bayoumy, Noah Browning, Mohammed Ghobari, “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger – and richer,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/yemen-aqap/. The Mukalla port, which has since been seized by Saudi forces, also reportedly functions as a hub for smuggling fuel.Yara Bayoumy, Noah Browning, Mohammed Ghobari, “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger – and richer,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/yemen-aqap/.
While AQAP held Mukallah, the militants looted the city’s central bank branch, netting an estimated $100 million. According to Yemeni security officials, the looting represented AQAP’s “biggest financial gain to date” and was “enough to fund them at the level they have been operating at for at least another 10 years.”Yara Bayoumy, Noah Browning, and Mohammed Ghobari, “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen made al Qaeda stronger – and richer,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/yemen-aqap/.
As a result of AQAP’s violent operations, the group is largely self-funded.“Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” Australian National Security, accessed January 28, 2015, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Al-QaidaintheArabianPeninsulaAQAP.aspx. However, another source of AQAP funding is donations by “like-minded supporters,”“Country Report on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224829.htm. most of whom are reportedly Saudi nationals.Barak Barfi, “Yemen on the Brink? The Resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen,” New America Foundation, January 2010, 2, http://www.newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/Barfi.pdf.
Recruitment and Training:
AQAP has turned to print, digital, and social media to bolster recruitment.
In 2010, AQAP launched an English online magazine, Inspire, to reach Western sympathizers and potential recruits. Inspire answers questions about AQAP and its mission and how to support them, from building homemade bombs to calls for lone wolf attacks in the United States. Analyst Gregory Johnsen has said that Inspire helps AQAP “reach, influence and inspire other like-minded individuals in the west. No longer do these individuals need to travel to Yemen or read Arabic in order to take instructions from AQAP. Now they can just download and read the magazine in English.”Michelle Shephard, “Al Qaeda branch inspired to launch English magazine,” Toronto Star, June 29, 2010, http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2010/06/29/al_qaeda_branch_inspired_to_launch_english_magazine.html.
Inspire’s first issue in July 2010 included an article titled, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” which described how to make a bomb using everyday items.Lee Keath, “Pressure cooker bombs used in past by militants,” Associated Press, April 16, 2013, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/pressure-cooker-bombs-used-past-militants; Richard Spencer, “Al-Qaeda newspaper: Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom,” Telegraph [U.K.], July 1, 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/7865978/Al-Qaeda-newspaper-Make-a-bomb-in-the-kitchen-of-your-mom.html. The August 2014 issue contained a nine-page guide on how to make car bombs, and suggested terror targets in the U.K. and the U.S.Josie Ensor, “Al-Qaeda manual encourages attacks on high street stores in UK,” Telegraph [U.K.], August 29, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/11062765/Al-Qaeda-manual-encourages-attacks-on-high-street-stores-in-UK.html. Its December 2014 issue featured instructions on how to make a bomb that could evade airport security.For PDF copies of each issue of Inspire Magazine, see http://jihadology.net/category/inspire-magazine/.
In 2012, AQAP released a recruitment guide called Expectations Full, primarily written by Samir Khan, the late editor of Inspire. The guide calls on potential Western-based recruits to forgo traveling to the region and requests they instead target America.Paul Cruickshank and Adam Levine, “Wage Jihad at Home, Not in Yemen, Al Qaeda Urges Recruits,” CNN Security Clearance, May 16, 2012, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/16/wage-jihad-at-home-not-in-yemen-al-qaeda-urges-recruits/. According to the guide, “attacking the enemy in their backyard” is one of the most helpful missions recruits can undertake, even more than fighting together with AQAP in Yemen.Paul Cruickshank and Adam Levine, “Wage Jihad at Home, Not in Yemen, Al Qaeda Urges Recruits,” CNN Security Clearance, May 16, 2012, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/16/wage-jihad-at-home-not-in-yemen-al-qaeda-urges-recruits/.
AQAP turned to social media in 2012, posting messages on jihadist websites and forums to attract western recruits. One Arabic-language message on the Shumukh and al-Fidaa jihadist forums, posted by a user claiming to be AQAP’s military committee, calls on recruits to launch suicide missions in their home countries. According to the post, “individual jihad or the so-called lone wolf has become popular.”Paul Cruickshank, “Al Qaeda in Yemen Advertises for Western Recruits,” CNN, June 11, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/11/world/meast/yemen-al-qaeda/. The messages provide email addresses for recruits to contact AQAP.
In recent years, AQAP has continued to exploit the opportunities for recruitment provided by social media sites. On Twitter, for example, as soon as an AQAP account is shut down, another emerges almost immediately, typically using a new name (“handle”) with one character amended. In November 2014, AQAP even launched its own “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) Twitter account, providing official answers to questions such as “Why haven’t there been further AQAP attacks inside the US? Why don’t you move the war from Yemen to US soil?” The job of resolving such queries from prospective jihadists falls to Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, the AQAP senior official who claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015.Jeremy Scahill, “AQAP Develops Its Own Version Of Reddit’s AMA and Twitter’s Blue Checkmark Verification,” Intercept, January 23, 2015, https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/23/aqap-develops-version-reddits-ama-twitters-blue-checkmark-verification/; “Al Qaida in Yemen uses video to claim responsibility for Charlie Hebdo attack,” Guardian, January 14, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/14/al-qaida-claims-responsibility-charlie-hebdo-attack-paris.
According to one spy who infiltrated AQAP, the group is increasingly demanding that prospective recruits coming to Yemen, Oman, Syria, and other Middle Eastern states must have clean passports and clean names. Anyone who is suspected of being subject to government surveillance is excluded from the recruitment net.Paul Cruickshank and Barbara Starr, “U.S. working assumption: AQAP ordered Said Kouachi to carry out an attack,” CNN, January 11, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/11/europe/said-koauchi-al-qaeda-orders/.
In September 2014, AQAP refocused attention on the Indian subcontinent. AQAP leader Ayman al-Zawahiri publicized the establishment of a new group called “Qaedat al-Jihad” to “create a Muslim caliphate in Burma, Bangladesh and parts of India.”“Al-Qaida / Al-Qaeda (The Base),” GlobalSecurity.org, last modified September 25, 2014, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/al-qaida.htm. Recently, AQAP and ISIS have begun competing in Yemen for recruits. According to Yemeni officials, a “real competition” has developed between AQAP, which has hundreds of members in the country, and ISIS, whose supporters in Yemen number in the dozens.Brian Todd, “ISIS Gaining Ground in Yemen, Competing With Al Qaeda,” CNN, January 22, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/21/politics/isis-gaining-ground-in-yemen/. This has sparked concerns that the groups, both vying for support and recruits, will compete to attack U.S. interests.
Since the start of 2016, AQAP has been seizing territory throughout southern Yemen and providing public services to the local population. As a result of the Yemeni insurgency, many of the southern regions’ security forces have left to fight alongside the coalition forces against the Houthi rebels in the north. AQAP has been attempting to fill the political vacuum to reportedly gain the trust of southern population. In late March 2016, AQAP unveiled a new well in Yemen’s southern, arid Hadramaut region. According to Middle East analyst Thomas Joscelyn, AQAP attempts to embed itself in the local population as opposed to gaining their submission through brutal violence, as ISIS has done in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria.Alessandria Masi, “Al Qaeda Winning Hearts and Minds Over ISIS In Yemen With Social Services,” International Business Times, April, 7, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/al-qaeda-winning-hearts-minds-over-isis-yemen-social-services-2346835;
Katharine Zimmerman, “AQAP: A Resurgent Threat,” Combating Terrorism Center, September 11, 2015, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/aqap-a-resurgent-threat. AQAP has reportedly constructed bridges, dug wells, built roads, and provided humanitarian assistance throughout the southern region and has highlighted these efforts on its social media accounts and in its Arabic-language propaganda magazine, al-Masra.Alessandria Masi, “Al Qaeda Winning Hearts and Minds Over ISIS In Yemen With Social Services,” International Business Times, April, 7, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/al-qaeda-winning-hearts-minds-over-isis-yemen-social-services-2346835. According to a 2015 report by the U.S. State Department, AQAP has quadrupled its size to 4,000 members from “approximately one thousand” members in 2014.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2015: Middle East and North Africa,” U.S. Department of State, accessed January 4, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2015/257517.htm;
“Country Reports on Terrorism 2014: Middle East and North Africa,” U.S. Department of State, accessed January 4, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2014/239407.htm.
AQAP’s primary stronghold is located in the al-Mahfad area of the Abyan Province in southern Yemen.Bill Roggio and Oren Adaki, “US drone strike hits AQAP training camp in southern Yemen,” Long War Journal, April 1, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/04/us_drone_strike_kill_25.php;
Mohammed al Qalisi and Taimur Khan, “Coalition in new assault on Al Qaeda in Yemen,” National (Dubai), April 23, 2016, http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/coalition-in-new-assault-on-al-qaeda-in-yemen;
Saeed Al-Batati, Kareem Fahim, and Eric Schmitt, “Yemeni Troops, backed by United Arab Emirates, Take City From Al Qaeda,” New York Times, April 24, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/25/world/middleeast/yemeni-troops-backed-by-united-arab-emirates-take-city-from-al-qaeda.html. In May 2014, a Yemeni official remarked that AQAP training camps were the “most active” in the al-Mahfad region.Mohammed Mukhashaf, “Yemeni army kills 13 al Qaeda fighters, including one Uzbek,” Reuters, May 1, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/01/us-yemen-army-idUSBREA400MY20140501. AQAP training camps also operate in the governorates of Shabwa, Hadramawt, and Marib.“Profile: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” BBC News, last modified September 11, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-11483095.
On July 14, 2016, AQAP released a video showing its so-called special forces training at the Hamza al Zinjibari training camp in southern Yemen. The video depicts AQAP fighters conducting weapons training, physical workouts, live fire scenarios, and martial arts training. Senior AQAP member and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi was highlighted in the film stating “thousands of” AQAP fighters have been trained in these types of camps, which has “had a clear impact in different jihadi fronts.”Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “AQAP details ‘special forces’ training camp,” Long War Journal, July 14, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/aqap-details-special-forces-training-camp.php. The video also exhibits the militants’ abilities to conduct assaults and kidnappings using SUVs and motorcycles.
Said Kouachi, one of the perpetrators of the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, trained with AQAP in Yemen between 2009 and 2011.David Gauthier-Villars, Noemie Bisserbe, and Julian E. Barnes, “Suspect in Charlie Hebdo Attack was Trained in Yemen,” Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/suspect-in-paris-massacre-was-trained-in-yemen-1420773315. According to a senior Yemeni security official, Kouachi trained in and around Dammaj, a town in northwest Yemen that is home to the country’s largest Salafist school.Maria abi-Habib, Margaret Coker, and Hakim Almasmari, “Al Qaeda in Yemen Claims Responsibility for Charlie Hebdo Attack,” Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/yemens-al-qaeda-branch-claims-responsibility-for-charlie-hebdo-attack-1421231389. Kouachi is believed to have trained in camps in the surrounding area in which hundreds of foreigners would train in “unmonitored… AQAP-controlled areas.”Maria abi-Habib, Margaret Coker, and Hakim Almasmari, “Al Qaeda in Yemen Claims Responsibility for Charlie Hebdo Attack,” Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/yemens-al-qaeda-branch-claims-responsibility-for-charlie-hebdo-attack-1421231389.
AQAP has also disseminated training guides amongst recruits and sympathizers. AQAP’s largest guide, the “Encyclopedia of Jihad,”Vikram Dodd, “Islamic cleric had terror handbook, court told,” Guardian, January 11, 2006, http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/jan/12/terrorism.islam. is a collection of ‘textbooks’ that includes information on “making explosives; first aid; use of pistols, grenades and mines; espionage; security precautions; acts of sabotage; secure communication; brainwashing; reconnaissance; infiltration; how to attack; the history and design of tanks; physical fitness; use of compasses; how to read maps; use of artillery guns, machine guns and armor-piercing weapons.”“Al-Qaida’s Online University: Jihad 101 for Would-be Terrorists,” Spiegel Online, August 17, 2006, http://www.spiegel.de/international/al-qaida-s-online-university-jihad-101-for-would-be-terrorists-a-432133.html. There are only 30 copies of the “Encyclopedia.” Trainees were required write down the text as it was dictated to them. The “Encyclopedia” became available on the Internet, in Arabic, in 2003.“Al-Qaida’s Online University: Jihad 101 for Would-be Terrorists,” Spiegel Online, August 17, 2006, http://www.spiegel.de/international/al-qaida-s-online-university-jihad-101-for-would-be-terrorists-a-432133.html.
- December 1992: Bombs explode at a hotel in Aden, Yemen where U.S. troops had stayed before traveling to Somalia. Two Austrian tourists die in the attack.“Osama Bin Laden: A Chronology of His Political Life,” Frontline PBS, accessed January 18, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/etc/cron.html.
- Late 1990s-Early 2000s: The men who eventually create AQAP in 2009—Nasir al-Wuhayshi, Said al-Shihri, Qasim al-Raymi, and Mohamed al-Awfi—all travel to Afghanistan and spend time at al-Qaeda–sponsored training camps there.Gregory D. Johnsen, “A Profile of AQAP’s Upper Echelon,” CTC Sentinel 5, no. 7 (2012): 6-8. Al-Wuhayshi serves as Osama Bin Laden’s personal secretary in Afghanistan between 1998 until about late 2001, when the two are separated during the U.S.-led Battle of Tora Bora.Gregory D. Johnsen, “A Profile of AQAP’s Upper Echelon,” CTC Sentinel 5, no. 7 (2012): 7.
- October 12, 2000: Suicide bombers driving an inflatable raft packed with explosives ram into the U.S.S. Cole as it is mooring a U.S. Navy destroyer to a buoy in the Port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. service members and injuring at least 40. Both bombers are Yemenis, and six men are arrested in connection with the plot, including Saudi national Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri, who is reportedly al-Qaeda’s chief of naval operations in the Persian Gulf.“Suicide Bombers Attack USS Cole,” BBC, October 12, 2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/12/newsid_4252000/4252400.stm.
- October 2002: Al-Qaeda reportedly carries out attacks on a French oil tanker in Yemen on October 6, killing one crewmember. On October 8, the group claims responsibility for attacking and killing two U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait.“Al-Qaida Timeline: Plots and Attacks,” NBC News, accessed January 18, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4677978/ns/world_news-hunt_for_al_qaida/t/al-qaida-timeline-plots-attacks/#.VBtCEp3D-P8.
- May 2003: On May 12, al-Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia attack Western housing compounds in Riyadh, killing 35 people.“Al-Qaida Timeline: Plots and Attacks,” NBC News, accessed January 18, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4677978/ns/world_news-hunt_for_al_qaida/t/al-qaida-timeline-plots-attacks/#.VBtCEp3D-P8.
- November 8, 2003: Suicide bombers driving vehicles disguised as police cars attack another residential compound in Riyadh, killing 17 and injuring 122.“Al-Qaida Timeline: Plots and Attacks,” NBC News, accessed January 18, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4677978/ns/world_news-hunt_for_al_qaida/t/al-qaida-timeline-plots-attacks/#.VBtCEp3D-P8.
- June 2004: Al-Qaeda militants kidnap and behead Paul Johnson, an American defense contractor for Lockheed Martin.Craig Whitlock, “Islamic Radicals Behead American in Saudi Arabia,” Washington Post, June 19, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52166-2004Jun18.html. Days after Johnson’s body is found dumped outside of Riyadh, Saudi security forces kill Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, who is—at the time—the purported leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s most wanted man. Muqrin is thought to be behind the kidnapping and several other attacks, including the November 8, 2003 residential compound attack in Riyadh that kills 17, as well as the May 2004 attacks on the al-Khobar Petroleum Center and Oasis residential compound that leave 22 dead.“Terror Leader ‘Al-Qaeda Trained,’” BBC, June 1, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3765095.stm.
- December 2004: On December 6, al-Qaeda launches an attack against the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, killing 5 non-American employees. “Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Takes Credit for Saudi Attack,” CNN, December 7, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/12/06/jeddah.attack/index.html. Then on December 29, militants attack Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior in Riyadh. Saudi forces kill seven of the assailants.“Al-Qaida Timeline: Plots and Attacks,” NBC News, accessed January 18, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4677978/ns/world_news-hunt_for_al_qaida/t/al-qaida-timeline-plots-attacks/#.VBtCEp3D-P8.
- February 3, 2006: 23 alleged al-Qaeda militants in Yemen escape from prison, including Qasim al-Raymi and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who becomes the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula when it officially opens operations in Yemen in January 2009.Gregory D. Johnsen, “Tracking Yemen’s 23 Escaped Jihadi Operatives – Part 2,” Terrorism Monitor 5, no. 19, October 24, 2007, http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=4466#.VBxQ0Z3D-P8.
- July 2, 2007: A suicide bomber detonates himself at a tourist site in Maarib, Yemen, killing 7 Spaniards and two Yemenis.“Yemen Ups Security after Attack Kills 7 Tourists,” Asharq Al-Awsat, July 3, 2007, http://www.aawsat.net/2007/07/article55262234.
- January 19, 2008: Gunmen in Hadramout fire on a convoy of tourists, killing 2 Belgians and 2 Yemenis.Robert F. Worth, “2 Belgian Tourists Killed in Yemen Ambush,” New York Times, January 19, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/19/world/middleeast/19sana.html.
- March 18, 2008: Militants fire three mortar rounds at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, missing and hitting a high school for girls next to it. The attack kills one security guard and wounds 18 people.“Yemen Attack Kills Guard, Injures 13 Girls,” NBC News, March 18, 2008, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/23687188/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/yemen-attack-kills-guard-injures-girls/#.U6YKzLHOddg.
- September 17, 2008: Militants from an al-Qaeda–affiliated group called Islamic Jihad disguise themselves as soldiers and detonate two car bombs outside of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, killing 18.“Significant Attacks against U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel: 1998-2012,” U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, June 1, 2013, 27.
- March 16, 2009: A suicide bomber detonates himself in Yemen’s historic old city of Shibam, killing 4 South Korean tourists.“Al Qaeda Blamed for Yemen Attack,” CNN, March 16, 2009, http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/03/16/yemen.bombing.alqaeda/index.html?iref=24hours.
- August 27, 2009: Al-Qaeda operative Abdullah Asiri meets with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, then Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, ostensibly to turn himself in and repent for joining al-Qaeda. Instead, Asiri detonates a bomb that is hidden in his underwear, killing himself and injuring the Saudi minister.“Al-Qaeda Claims Saudi Prince Bomb,” BBC, August 30, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8229581.stm.
- November 5, 2009: Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist who exchanged dozens of emails with U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, embarks on a shooting rampage at an army base in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 12 and wounding 31.Mariah Blake, “Internal Documents Reveal How the FBI Blew Fort Hood,” Mother Jones, August 27, 2013, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/08/nidal-hasan-anwar-awlaki-emails-fbi-fort-hood; “Gunman Kills 12, Wounds 31 at Fort Hood,” NBC News, November 5, 2009, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33678801/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/gunman-kills-wounds-fort-hood/#.U6dljbFCxdg.
- December 25, 2009: Nigerian citizen Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempts to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear aboard a Northwest Airlines flight travelling from Amsterdam to Detroit, but is subdued by passengers after setting his pants on fire. Abdulmutallab allegedly received training and explosives from AQAP in Yemen.Dan Eggen, Karen DeYoung, Spencer Hsu, “Plane Suspect Was Listed in Terror Database after Father Alerted U.S. Officials,” Washington Post, December 27, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/25/AR2009122501355.html.
- April 26, 2010: A suicide bomber targets the British ambassador’s convoy as it travels to the British embassy in Sanaa, narrowly missing the ambassador while killing himself and wounding two security guards.Hugh Macleod, “UK Ambassador in Yemen Escapes Assassination Attempt,” Guardian, April 26, 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/apr/26/uk-ambassador-yemen-assassination-attempt.
- May 1, 2010: Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan who was allegedly inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, attempts to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. The plot collapses when the explosives fail to detonate.
- June 20, 2010: Four gunmen break into the Yemeni intelligence headquarters in Aden, killing several security guards and freeing suspected al-Qaeda detainees. The attack leaves 11 people dead.Mohammed Mukhashaf, “Yemen Police, Militants Clash during Raid in Aden,” Reuters, June 25, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/25/us-yemen-idUSTRE65O18R20100625.
- November 2010: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula attempts to mail bombs loaded in printer cartridges via UPS and FedEx to Jewish community centers in Chicago. The bombs make their way from Yemen to Britain and Dubai before a last minute tip from Saudi intelligence alerts officials in each country to the cargo and foils the plot.Spencer Ackerman, “Qaeda: Yeah, the Printer-bomb Plot Was Us,” Wired, November 6, 2010, http://www.wired.com/2010/11/qaeda-yeah-the-printer-bomb-plot-was-us/.
- March 2012: Militants abduct Saudi envoy Abdullah al-Khalidi in the Yemeni southern port city of Aden, demanding a ransom and the release of prisoners from Saudi jails.Kristin Deasy, “Abdullah Al-Khalidi, Saudi Diplomat, Abducted in Yemen,” Global Post, March 28, 2012, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/saudi-arabia/120328/abdullah-al-khalidi-saudi-diplomat-abducted-ye.
- May 2012: The Central Intelligence Agency and foreign intelligence services foil an attempt by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to send a suicide bomber carrying an “experimental bomb aboard an airliner” travelling to the U.S.Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt, “Qaeda Plot to Attack Plane Foiled, U.S. Officials Say,” New York Times, May 7, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/world/middleeast/us-says-terrorist-plot-to-attack-plane-foiled.html.
- May 21, 2012: A suicide bomber dressed in a Yemeni army uniform detonates himself during rehearsals for a military parade in Sanaa, killing 90 soldiers and injuring more than 200.Mohammed Ghobari and Tom Finn, “Suicide Bomber Kills 90 in Yemen, Al Qaeda Vows More Attacks,” Reuters, May 21, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/21/us-yemen-suicidebomb-deathtoll-idUSBRE84K0O720120521.
- August 2013: Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri names AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi his deputy,Eli Lake, “Meet al Qaeda’s New General Manager: Nasser al-Wuhayshi,” Daily Beast, August 9, 2013, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/09/meet-al-qaeda-s-new-general-manager-nasser-al-wuhayshi.htm. and reportedly gives him “clear orders” to carry out an attack, prompting the U.S. to temporarily shut down its embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa.Ellen Nakashima and Anne Gearan, “Al-Qaeda Leader Zawahri Is Said to Have Ordered Terrorist Attack; U.S. Citizens Urged to Leave Yemen,” Washington Post, August 5, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/al-qaeda-leader-Zawahri-is-said-to-have-ordered-terrorist-attack/2013/08/05/9eb4799e-fe1b-11e2-bd97-676ec24f1f3f_story.html.
- December 16, 2013: After AQAP militants slam a vehicle packed with explosives into the hospital at the Yemeni Defense Ministry complex in Sanaa, a group of gunmen engage security forces in a shootout that leaves 52 people dead.Hakim Almasmari, “Militants Attack Hospital at Yemen’s Defense Ministry, Killing 52,” CNN, December 16, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/05/world/meast/yemen-violence/. AQAP senior leader Qasim al-Raymi later apologizes for the attack, saying, “We offer our apologies and condolences to the families of the victims… We did not want your lost ones; we did not target them on purpose.”Yousuf Basil and Catherine E. Shoichet, “Al Qaeda: We’re Sorry about Yemen Hospital Attack,” CNN, December 22, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/22/world/meast/yemen-al-qaeda-apology/.
- February 13, 2014: AQAP militants carry out an attack on the central prison in Sanaa, freeing 29 prisoners, including 19 suspected of affiliation with AQAP. A suicide bomber reportedly detonates a car outside the prison, followed by two units of fighters, one that engages security guards outside the prison, and another that battles with guards inside. At least 7 soldiers are killed in the attack.Bill Roggio, “AQAO Storms Prison in Yemen’s Capital, Frees Al Qaeda Operatives,” Long War Journal, February 13, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/02/aqap_storms_prison_i.php#.
- April 8, 2014: Militants from AQAP attack a military checkpoint in Hadramout, Yemen, killing 8 soldiers.Oren Adaki, “AQAP Releases Videos and Pictures of Attack in Hadramout,” Long War Journal, September 9, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/09/aqap_releases_video_and_pictur.php.
- April 24, 2014: Two suspected AQAP kidnappers attempt to abduct two Americans –one Special Operations commando and one CIA officer—from a barbershop in Sanaa. The Americans reportedly shoot and kill both suspects and flee in an SUV parked nearby. Shuaib Almosawa and Eric Schmitt, “2 Yemenis Shot by Americans are Linked to Qaeda Cell,” New York Times, May 10, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/11/world/middleeast/yemen-silent-on-disclosure-of-shooting-by-americans.html?_r=0.
- May 2014: On May 14, AQAP militants carry out simultaneous attacks in Azzan and Gol al Rayda, killing 10 soldiers.Oren Adaki, “23 Killed in Simultaneous AQAP Attacks in Shabwa,” Long War Journal, May 14, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/05/23_killed_in_simulta.php. On May 23, al-Qaeda militants kill 12 Yemeni troops and wound 11 in southern Hadramout.“23 Killed After Al Qaeda Attacks in Southern Yemen,” CNN, May 24, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/24/world/meast/yemen-al-qaeda-attack/.
- June 2014: On June 5, al-Qaeda militants kill at least 14 soldiers and government-allied tribesmen at an army checkpoint in southern Shabwa.“‘AQAP fighters’ Attack Yemen Army Checkpoint,” Al Jazeera English, June 5, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/06/fighters-attack-yemen-army-checkpoint-20146584520330658.html. On June 26, AQAP carries out simultaneous attacks in Seyoun. Militants reportedly kill three soldiers at Seyoun Airport, while a suicide car bomber detonates himself at the entrance of an army base, killing five Yemeni soldiers.Oren Adaki, “Twin AQAP Attacks Hit Hadramout Airport and Military Headquarters,” Long War Journal, June 30, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/06/aqap_attacks_yemeni_airport_in.php.
- July 15, 2014: Suspected al-Qaeda members rob a post office and kill a police officer in Hadramout.“Gulf of Aden Security Review,” AEI Critical Threats, July 16, 2014, http://www.criticalthreats.org/gulf-aden-security-review/gulf-aden-security-review-july-16-2014.
- August 2014: On August 7, AQAP tries to attack an army facility and briefly gains control over several government buildings. On August 8, alleged AQAP militants kidnap and kill 14 Yemeni soldiers.“Suspected Qaeda Gunmen Kidnap and Kill 14 Yemeni Soldiers,” Reuters, August 8, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/08/us-yemen-militants-idUSKBN0G825H20140808.
- September 1, 2014: AQAP executes three local men suspected of aiding U.S. drone strikes in Yemen’s Hadramout province.“Al Qaeda in Yemen Executes Three ‘Spies’ for Guiding Drone Strikes,” Reuters, September 1, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/01/us-yemen-security-spies-idUSKBN0GW2MJ20140901.
- September 1, 2014: AQAP kills 13 Yemeni soldiers and wounds 40 in an attack in Shabwa.Bassam Al-Khameri, “AQAP Kills 13 Soldiers, Wounds 40 in Shabwa,” Yemen Times, September 2, 2014, http://www.yementimes.com/en/1812/news/4271/AQAP-kills-13-soldiers-wounds-40-in-Shabwa.htm.
- September 25, 2014: AQAP executes a Yemeni intelligence officer and four other Yemeni officials.Oren Adaki, “AQAP Executes Yemeni Intelligence Director,” Long War Journal, September 26, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/09/aqap_executes_yemeni_intellige.php.
- September 27, 2014: AQAP launches a rocket at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, wounding several guards.“Al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen say fire rocket toward U.S. embassy,” Reuters, September 27, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/27/us-yemen-security-usa-idUSKCN0HM0IH20140927.
- September 28, 2014: An AQAP suicide bomber detonates a car bomb at a hospital-turned-Houthi base, killing 15. Five more die in an AQAP ambush in the south of Yemen.“Militants kill 20 in two separate Yemen attacks: sources,” Reuters, September 28, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/28/us-yemen-blast-idUSKCN0HN0OF20140928.
- September 29, 2014: AQAP claims credit for at least four attacks against the Yemeni military and Shiite rebels, killing at least 20.Oren Adaki, “AQAP Steps Up Attack Against Army, Houthis,” Long War Journal, September 29, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/09/aqap_steps_up_attacks_against.php.
- October 1, 2014: AQAP conducts three attacks against the Yemeni military and Shiite rebels, killing at least four soldiers and wounding five.Oren Adaki, “AQAP Claims 3 Attacks in Shabwa and Sana’a,” Long War Journal, October 2, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/10/aqap_claims_three_attacks_in_s.php.
- October 8, 2014: AQAP fighters attack security and government buildings in southern Yemen with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, killing at least four soldiers before they are forced to retreat.“Al Qaeda Attacks South Yemen Town of Al-Bayda, Four Soldiers Killed,” Reuters, October 8, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/08/us-yemen-security-attacks-idUSKCN0HX0KU20141008.
- October 9, 2014: Suicide bombers kills at least 67 people in two separate attacks. A suicide bomber detonates at a Houthi checkpoint in Sanaa, killing at least 47, including four children. A suicide car bombing and a gun attack on an army outpost in eastern Yemen kills at least 20 soldiers. AQAP does not immediately claim responsibility, but the bombings mirror past AQAP attacks.Mohammed Ghobari, “Suicide Bombings in Yemen Kill 67 after Premier Quits,” Reuters, October 9, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/09/us-yemen-security-idUSKCN0HY0FR20141009.
- October 11, 2014: An explosion near a military checkpoint in Yemen’s Hadramaout province kills two soldiers and injures four others. AQAP and its local wing, Ansar al-Sharia, are suspected.“Explosion Kills Two Soldiers in Yemen’s Hadramawt Region,” Reuters, October 11, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/11/us-yemen-security-idUSKCN0I00BV20141011.
- October 15: AQAP fighters storm the town of Odein, killing three soldiers. AQAP holds the town for nine hours before it withdraws.“Sunni Tribesmen and Houthi Fighters Clash in Yemen, 15 Dead,” Reuters, October 17, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/17/us-yemen-security-idUSKCN0I617R20141017.
- October 17, 2014: At least 15 are killed in fighting between Houthi rebels and Sunni Muslim tribesman in and around the Yemeni city of Ibb.“Sunni Tribesmen and Houthi Fighters Clash in Yemen, 15 Dead,” Reuters, October 17, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/17/us-yemen-security-idUSKCN0I617R20141017.
- December 3, 2014: AQAP militants detonate a car bomb outside of the Iranian ambassador’s residence in Yemen, killing three.Yara Bayoumy and Mohammed Ghobari, “Car bomb kills three outside Iran envoy’s residence in Yemen,” Reuters, December 3, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/03/us-yemen-blast-idUSKCN0JH0EW20141203.
- December 8, 2014: Five roadside bombs target Shiite Houthi fighters and wound several people in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. AQAP is believed to be behind the attacks.“Roadside Bombs Targeting Houthis Explode in Yemen’s Capital, Several Wounded,” Reuters, December 8, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/08/us-yemen-blasts-idUSKBN0JM0LF20141208.
- December 9, 2014: Two AQAP suicide bombers attempt to drive explosive-laden cars into a military compound in east Yemen, killing five soldiers.“Suicide Attacks Kill Five in Eastern Yemen Army Base- Sources,” Reuters, December 9, 2014, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/12/09/uk-yemen-security-attack-idUKKBN0JN0GU20141209.
- December 16, 2014: AQAP launches attack in Radaa. Two simultaneous car bombs kill 31, including 20 schoolgirls.“Yemen Car Bomb Attack Kills 15 Children,” BBC, December 16, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30504641.
- December 24, 2014: AQAP calls for attacks against U.S. airliners in the 13th issue of its English-language magazine, Inspire.“Extremism and Terrorism,” Anti-Defamation League, December 24, 2014, http://blog.adl.org/extremism/aqap-al-qaeda-inspire-english-magazine-13.
- December 31, 2014: An AQAP bomb attack kills 26 people in a street celebration.“Blast Targets Houthi in Yemeni Capital,” Reuters, December 31, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/05/us-yemen-security-idUSKBN0KE09220150105.
- January 7, 2015: Said and Cherif Kouachi attack the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12. They claimed to act in the name of AQAP, according to witnesses.Holly Watt, “Terrorists Shouted They Were from Al-Qaeda in the Yemen Before Charlie Hebdo Attack,” Telegraph [U.K.], January 7, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11330636/Terrorists-shouted-they-were-from-al-Qaeda-in-the-Yemen-before-Charlie-Hebdo-attack.html. On January 14, AQAP officially claims responsibility for the attack. Maria Abi-Habib, Margaret Coker, and Hakim Almasmari, “Al Qaeda in Yemen Claims Responsibility for Charlie Hebdo Attack,” Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/yemens-al-qaeda-branch-claims-responsibility-for-charlie-hebdo-attack-1421231389.
- January 7, 2015: A car bomb detonates outside a police college in Sanaa, killing 40 and wounding 71. AQAP is suspected.“Yemeni Police Arrest Six Suspects in Police College Bombing: TV,” Reuters, January 8, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/08/us-yemen-security-idUSKBN0KH1X820150108.
- January 26, 2015: AQAP militants attack a military checkpoint in southern Yemen, killing one soldier and wounding two others.“Al Qaeda Militants Kill Yemeni Soldier in Southern Yemen- Official,” Reuters, January 26, 2015, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/01/26/uk-yemens-militants-attacks-idUKKBN0KZ0VD20150126.
Designations by the U.S. Government:
|January 19, 2010: The Department of State designates Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).“Designations of Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Senior Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, January 19, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143208.htm.||January 19, 2010: The Department of State designates Said al-Shihri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Designations of Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Senior Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, January 19, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143208.htm.|
|January 19, 2010: The Department of State designates Nasir al-Wuhayshi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Designations of Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Senior Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, January 19, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143208.htm.||May 11, 2010: The Department of State designates Qasim al-Raymi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Designations of AQAP Leaders Qasim Al-Rimi and Nayif Al-Qahtani,” U.S. Department of State, May 11, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143206.htm.|
|May 11, 2010: The Department of State designates Nayif al-Qahtani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Designations of AQAP Leaders Qasim Al-Rimi and Nayif Al-Qahtani,” U.S. Department of State, May 11, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/143206.htm.||July 6, 2010: The Department of the Treasury designates Anwar al-Awlaki as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Treasury Designates Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Key Leader of Al-Qa’ida in the Arabia Peninsula,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 16, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg779.aspx.|
|December 7, 2010: The Department of State designates Fahd Mohamed Ahmed al-Quso as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Secretary of State Designation of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula Operative Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso,” U.S. Department of State, December 7, 2010, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/12/152455.htm.||July 6, 2010: The Department of State designates Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Department of State’s Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Assan Tali Al-Asiri,” U.S. Department of State, March 24, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/03/158911.htm.|
|June 16, 2011: The Department of State designates Othman al-Ghamdi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Terrorist Designations of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Operative Othman Al-Ghamdi,” U.S. Department of State, June 16, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/166288.htm.||October 7, 2013: The Department of the Treasury designates Muhammed Jamal Abd-al Rahim Ahmad as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Anti-Terrorism Designations,” U.S. Department of Treasury, October 7, 2013, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20131007.aspx.|
|December 18, 2013: The Department of the Treasury designates Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nuaymi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Treasury Designates Al-Qa’ida Supporters in Qatar and Yemen,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 18, 2013, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2249.aspx.||December 18, 2013: The Department of the Treasury designates Abd al-Wahhab Abd Muhammad Abd al-Rahamn Humayqani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Treasury Designates Al-Qa’ida Supporters in Qatar and Yemen,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 18, 2013, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2249.aspx.|
|June 17, 2014: The Department of State designates Shawki Ali Ahmed al-Badani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Terrorist Designation of Shawki Ali Ahmed al-Badani,” U.S. Department of State, June 17, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/06/227678.htm.||July 15, 2014: The Department of State designates Anders Cameroon Ostensvig Dale as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Terrorist Designation of Anders Cameroon Ostensvig Dale,” U.S. Department of State, July 15, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/07/229277.htm.|
Designations by Foreign Governments and Organizations:
|United Kingdom—listed Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as an Asset Freeze Target on January 20, 2010.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.||United Kingdom—listed Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al Charekh (Sanafi al-Nasr) as an Asset Freeze Target on January 20, 2010.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.|
|United Kingdom—listed Nasir Abd-al-Karim Abdullah al-Wahishi as an Asset Freeze Target on January 20, 2010.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.||United Kingdom—listed Qasim Yahya Mahdi al-Rimi as an Asset Freeze Target on May 26, 2010.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.|
|United Kingdom—listed Anwar Nasser Abdulla al-Aulaqi as an Asset Freeze Target on July 30, 2010.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.||United Kingdom—listed Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri as an Asset Freeze Target on April 1, 2011.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.|
|United Kingdom—listed Othman Ahmed Othman al-Ghamdi as an Asset Freeze Target on June 27, 2011.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.||United Kingdom—listed Muhammad Jamal Abd-al Rahim Ahmad al-Kashif as an Asset Freeze Target on November 5, 2013.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.|
|United Nations—listed Aiman Muhammed Rabi al-Zawahri as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on October 6, 2001.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.||United Nations— listed Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) under the category "Entities and other groups and undertakings associated with Al Qaida" on January 19, 2010.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.|
|United Nations—listed Nasir ‘abd-al-Karim ‘Abdullah al-Wahishi as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on January 19, 2010.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.||United Nations— listed Said Ali al-Shihri as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on January 19, 2010.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.|
|United Nations—listed Qasim Yaha Mahdi al-Rimi as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on May 11, 2010.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.||United Nations— listed Anwar Nasser Abdulla al-Aulaqi as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on July 20, 2010.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.|
|United Nations—listed Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on March 24, 2011.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.||United Nations— listed Othman Ahmed Othman al-Ghamdi as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on June 16, 2011.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.|
|United Nations—listed Muhammad Jamal Abd-Al Rahim Ahmad Al-Kashif as an Individual associated with Al Qaida on October 21, 2013.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.|
|Australia—listed Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a terrorist organization on November 26, 2010; re-listed November 26, 2013.“Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” Australian National Security, accessed January 28, 2015, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Al-QaidaintheArabianPeninsulaAQAP.aspx.||Canada—listed Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a terrorist entity on December 23, 2010.“Regulations Amending the Regulations Establishing a List of Entities,” Canada Gazette, December 23, 2010, http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2010/2010-12-23-x5/html/sor-dors313-eng.html.|
|Israel—listed Anwar Nasser Ab[d]ulla al-Aulaqi as a declared individual on January 19, 2010.“טרור כפעילי שהוכרזו והיחידים הארגונים רשימות - נספחים” Prime Minister’s Office, http://www.pmo.gov.il/Secretary/GovDecisions/2013/Documents/des124B.doc.|
Ties to Extremist Entities:
In August 2014, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced its support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria via Twitter, “Yemen’s AQAP calls on Islamists to Target America After Iraq Air Strikes,” Reuters, August 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/14/us-iraq-security-yemen-idUSKBN0GE2DC20140814. and made operative recommendations to ISIS in a statement published on its website. “Yemen’s AQAP calls on Islamists to Target America After Iraq Air Strikes,” Reuters, August 14, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/14/us-iraq-security-yemen-idUSKBN0GE2DC20140814. Although al-Qaeda distanced itself from the brutal group based in Iraq and Syria, no break has since been reported between al-Qaeda and its affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula as a result of AQAP’s support for ISIS.
In November 2014, AQAP chief cleric Harith al-Nadhari accused ISIS of “planting… disunity” among Islamic factions fighting in Syria. Mike Brunker, “War of Words Between al-Qaeda and ISIS Continues with Scholar’s Smackdown, “ NBC News, November 21, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/war-words-between-al-qaeda-isis-continues-scholars-smackdown-n253676. In an official AQAP statement, al-Nadhari criticized ISIS of “extending the caliphate to a number of countries in which [it has] no power.” Al-Nadhari’s criticism came one week after a November 13th declaration by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which Baghdadi claimed the ‘caliphate’ to have spread to Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Qatar. Zachary Roth and Jane C. Timm, “Admin: Strikes on Khorasan Group Aimed to Avert Imminent Threat,” MSNBC, September 23, 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/us-arab-partners-airstrikes-syria-isis.
Khorasan is a Syria-based al-Qaeda offshoot considered in September 2014 an “imminent threat” to U.S. national security. Zachary Roth and Jane C. Timm, “Admin: Strikes on Khorasan Group Aimed to Avert Imminent Threat,” MSNBC, September 23, 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/us-arab-partners-airstrikes-syria-isis. According to director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State [in Iraq and al-Sham].” Mark Mazzetti, Michael S. Schmidt and Ben Hubbard, “U.S. Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS,” New York Times, September 20, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/world/middleeast/us-sees-other-more-direct-threats-beyond-isis-.html. Khorasan’s connection to AQAP runs deep. The U.S. described Khorasan as a “network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans.” Mike Levine, James Gordon Meek, Pierre Thomas and Lee Ferran, “What is the Khorasan Group, Targeted in US by Syria?” ABC News, September 23, 2014, http://abcnews.go.com/International/khorasan-group-targeted-us-syria/story?id=25700467. U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, indirectly referred to Khorasan as “an unholy mix of people… some who come from AQAP.” Ken Dilanian and Eileen Sullivan, “AP Enterprise: al-Qaida’s Syrian Cell Alarms US,” Associated Press, September 13, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-enterprise-al-qaidas-syrian-cell-alarms-us. Khorasan has plotted with AQAP members, including chief bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, to plan concealed bombs for terrorist plots against the United States. According to CNN, al-Asiri plotted three strikes against American aviation between 2009 and 2012, after which he was supposedly “transferred” to the Khorasan Group. Paul Cruickshank, "Killing Khorasan Bomb-Maker a Big Win—But at What Cost?" CNN, November 6, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/06/world/meast/syria-strike-bomb-maker/.
Al-Shabab is al-Qaeda’s Somali-based branch. According to Somali Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer, the chaos of the Yemeni insurgency has enabled terrorists and weapons to flow between Yemen and Somalia.Ty McCormick, U.S. Attacks Reveal Al-Shabab’s Strength, Not Weakness,” Foreign Policy, March 9, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/09/u-s-attacks-reveal-al-shababs-strength-not-weakness-somalia/. According to Omer, al-Shabab fighters have been able to obtain new weapons and develop tactics from AQAP, including the use of laptop explosives and more destructive car bombs. Ties between AQAP and al-Shabab reportedly existed before the Somali-based group pledged its allegiance to the al-Qaeda network in 2012. In 2010, AQAP deputy leader Said Al Shihri released a statement calling for the two groups to target the United States together.Ty McCormick, U.S. Attacks Reveal Al-Shabab’s Strength, Not Weakness,” Foreign Policy, March 9, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/09/u-s-attacks-reveal-al-shababs-strength-not-weakness-somalia/. U.S. intelligence officers have also claimed AQAP was training al-Shabab fighters and providing them with weapons since 2011.Brian Bennett, “Al Qeada’s Yemen branch has aided Somalia militants, U.S. says,” Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/18/world/la-fg-bin-laden-somalia-20110718.
Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani
The royal family of Qatar has been tied to al-Qaeda central command as well as its branch in the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar’s former interior minister and royal family member Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani tipped off the 9/11 attacks mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, before he could be captured by the U.S. Brian Ross and David Scott, "Qatari Royal Family Linked to Al Qaeda," ABC News, February 7, 2007, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=129838. In 2010, an arm of the Qatari government made a $1.2 million donation to help build a Yemeni mosque for Abdel Wahab al-Humayqani, who was already a designated fund-raiser for AQAP. David K Kirkpatrick, “Qatar’s Support of Islamists Alienates Allies Near and Far,” New York Times, September 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/world/middleeast/qatars-support-of-extremists-alienates-allies-near-and-far.html.
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