Home > AL Qaeda, SAU, USA, YEM > Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Part 2/3)

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Part 2/3)

March 25, 2010

The following report is reprinted with permission from Yemen Times.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula  (Part 2/3)
©  Abdel Ilah Haidar Shae’e
Extracts from a paper delivered at the Afif Cultural Foundation
Source:  Yemen Times
Publication date:  March 22, 2010

Part 1
Part 3  (Final)

The ideology of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the local branch of the international organization envisions an Islamic state through dismantling current systems operating in the Arabian Peninsula.

Al-Qaeda’s aim is to establish an army from Yemen, as one of four, whose job is to manage the “epic battle in the Middle East” that gives its name to the media foundation of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, called the Epics Foundation.

Research into the different strategies of international jihadi operations methodology (the main one being Al-Qaeda), illustrates the fact that Al-Qaeda builds its vision based more on an ideological religious standpoint than on other political or realistic ones. These criteria bring us closer to understanding Al-Qaeda both on a local and international level.
This ideology prompts fighting more than other propaganda or political goals, as is clear in the case of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This is based on a special interpretation by them for the current situation, describing it as an occupation. Fighting is prioritized due to the perceived humiliation of the Islamic nation in the different areas in the world. In order to understand this fundamental vision of Al-Qaeda, we should study its unilateral explanations of the old scripts and explanations, some of which date back more than 1,000 years.

At the same time however, Al-Qaeda is modern, creative, and innovative in all its military and intelligence tools and techniques. The latest innovation in penetration techniques led to a major change in security systems, when Omar Farouk Abdulmutalab tried to blow up a North West plane over Detroit Airport. In his speech aimed at Yemen, Osama Bin Laden focuses on calling the Yemeni tribes with their names “You the courageous of Hashed and Modhej and Bakeel, come and support your brothers. The war is on fire now.” For years, Bin Laden has been asserting that the forces from Yemen are coming.

The tribe, religion, system, political and financial crises are all major factors that have helped Al-Qaeda and supported its work for the past four years. This was strengthened after the operatives escaped from prison in February 2006. Al-Qaeda exists both in the city and among tribes, but the arrests and operations statistics show Sana’a and its surrounding areas as the headquarters for most of Al-Qaeda’s operations. The economic and political situation in Yemen is playing a vital role in supporting the expansion of Al Qaeda both as an organization and an ideology. Moreover, the influence of these local factors is much greater than those of external causes, such as Palestine. The issue of Palestine, on the other hand, is commonly used by Al-Qaeda in motivational speeches as an external factor existing in the surrounding countries. Once again, the supporting environment in Yemen was suitable for a new start for Al-Qaeda.

The current economic situation in Yemen imposes extreme poverty. This is clearly reflected in the psychological side of the Yemeni who barely cares nor worries about the pattern of his life. This is an important personality character Al-Qaeda tries to exploit. So all the current conditions support Al-Qaeda in this because they are mainly interested in recruiting youngsters who care little whether they live or die, a fact that is instilled in Bedouin and Tribal cultures, where murder and killing is relatively high due to the absence of real authority. The American-Yemeni operations coordinated in Shabwa, Abyan and Arhab, revealed the fact that authorities cannot operate effectively in these locations fearing local opposition, especially after the bombing of these areas with U.S. missiles. Locals will strongly challenge these authorities and refuse their military or security support.

A few months prior to that mission, there were several incursions into government centres. The opposition speeches, which focused on attacking and questioning the system, helped Al-Qaeda. This has created a general set of circumstances that caters for Al-Qaeda’s main requirement, which is the importance of bringing the regime down regardless of the techniques utilized.

In its local slogans, Al-Qaeda has a sacred and a simple message; “Take the infidels out of the Arabian Peninsula” and “twelve thousand fighters are coming out from Abyan Aden”, and “Yemen is the land of Warriors”. This is a fact that most Muslims can not deny. Yemen is also a solid ground for the ideological speeches of Al-Qaeda and they have achieved a suitable link with public audiences in the strategies and general characteristics of The Al-Qaeda Plan.

The political crises and the disintegration between the authority and the opposition has been a perfect opportunity for Al-Qaeda to recruit and train. Moreover, Sa’ada’s war has drawn the entire country’s attention away from what is going on in the southern and eastern governorates, whilst Al-Qaeda has managed to establish a regional centre in Yemen.

Both Al-Qaeda and the tribe share the fact that they rule themselves and are not entirely subjective to a central authority; the authority of which Al-Qaeda doesn’t believe in and therefore seeks to destroy. Having built a solid ground for itself due to the current situation, Al-Qaeda has managed to cross all borders to regional oceans then the international locations. In doing so, it has also been able to move from the national standpoint to an international one after the merge that took place early in 2009. The Saudi Saeed Al Shahri, Abu Sofian Al Azdi Al Shahri – 35 years old, was assigned the task, along with other Saudi names that started joining Al-Qaeda in late 2007. Two other major players are Abu Homam Al Qahtani – 24 years old and Abdullah Hasan Osairi, a 23 year old who executed the assassination attempt of the deputy Minister of Interior, Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, in August 2008.

Although Al-Qaeda is both local and regional, the international aspects of it came from multiple angles namely: the conflict areas and the Al-Qaeda aim that the enemy will never feel peaceful, and the fact that Al-Qaeda is adopting different international concerns such as Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula builds its conflict based on a “fundamental” principle which is the reciprocity approach; if we’re insecure, we’ll make you insecure as well, hence the international and cross border operations.

Al-Qaeda’s invention of a ‘weapon’ that seems impossible to reveal by electronic devices, has enabled Al-Qaeda to export these operations internationally, knowing full well that it has the technique to do just that. Al-Qaeda’s Ameer Nasser Al Wohaishi says: Muslims do not have to worry about making bombs, its ingredients are available in your mothers’ kitchens and as it can be easily made, security devices will not be able to reveal it. So go and hit the airports and capitals of those countries that fight Muslims, terrify them and make them feel insecure.

Historical stages

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has gone through four historical stages; the first was building a base, the initial foundation, in Afghanistan. The main aim was to recruit fighters from the geographic areas of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Peninsula countries. This stage lasted from the mid eighties until the early nineties. The most prominent features of this stage were: mobilizing as many youngsters as possible for the training camps in Afghanistan and, emphasizing the fact that the battle will not stop with the Soviets’ departure from the country because they would immediately start preparing for a more international battle.

The second stage is one of discovery; it is when Al-Qaeda started looking for the best places in the world from which it can manage the conflict. Somalia was the first chosen field for Al-Qaeda outside Afghanistan, after the Soviet Union fell apart. This stage marked Yemeni and Saudi youth battling against the U.S. in Somalia and Al-Qaeda’s ideological operations spread through to the Al Riyadh operation in July 1996, targeting the headquarters for U.S. forces, an operation that was only blessed by Osama Bin Laden and not adopted. This stage lasted from the early nineties until the launch of the international front against Jews and Crusaders in February 1998. During this time fighters were sent out and several assassination groups were formed from a number of the Yemeni Socialist Party leaders. Al-Qaeda infiltrated independent groups in the war of ’94 that led to the defeat of the Socialist Party, a party Bin Laden considered a more dangerous opponent than the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The speech at that stage was circling the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and called the American existence in Saudi Arabia as an occupation of the sacred locations and the two mosques, ranking it as the second occupation after the Palestinian one.

Simultaneously, different operations were taking place outside the geographical borders in Somalia, Tanzania and Nairobi, with the exception of some limited undertakings in Yemen. Al-Qaeda has focused on sending weapons from the Yemeni market to Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of the conflict at that time, between the two regimes.

Al-Qaeda’s ideology in the Arabian Peninsula became very clear during the operation in Al Maraqshah Mountains, an area in Abyan, southern Yemen. It took place in December 1998 when the Islamic Abyan Aden army announced the kidnapping of Western tourists. The issue later developed into clashes with the local security forces, the death of four English men and the arrest of the Islamic Abyan Aden army founder, Abu Al Hassan Zayn Al Abideen Al Muhdar, a nobleman from Shabwa in southern Yemen. The Yemeni authorities executed him in 1999. The most eminent feature of that stage was assigning local leadership for international goals for Al-Qaeda, Abu Ali Al Harethi – 40 years old, killed by a CIA plane in early November 2002. Another feature was hitting the USS Cole, an operation through which Al-Qaeda was able to attract fresh local recruits for their next stage.

The third stage was building the first organizational structure for Al-Qaeda in the area. This happened in parallel with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The most important features of this stage were the establishment of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as a local structural organization with known leadership. Although this organization was known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, not one attempt was recorded outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, except for the financial and military support for the Iraqi front, along with media support provided by Al-Qaeda. The characteristics of this stage and the most prominent results are the intellectual activity and scientific research. These were published by leaders and scientists who supported and enriched the ideological library of Al-Qaeda with readings and interpretation for Islam in accordance with contemporary requirements. After distribution, those scientists and leaders were jailed by the Saudi Authorities. That stage caused internal separation and a split, for the first time, inside the intellectual foundations both religious and secular. The secular religious debate made it into the public domain in Saudi Arabia. Intellectual and media foundations started attacking the religious and the Fatwa foundations in the kingdom, abusing the symbols of religious mindset.

The fourth stage is the current one; it is the difficult stage where Al-Qaeda is conducting a major war with international forces. Al-Qaeda says that this is an attrition battle against the U.S. in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. At the early stages Osama Bin Laden is the one who guided the rhetoric; addressing the scientists as ‘the noble ones’ and the army as ‘our brothers’, May Allah protect them. However, during later stages the tone took on a different level. All those parties stayed out of Al-Qaeda’s military operations targets until the new launching stage when the speech came in line with the operations. They started focusing on local factors, assassinating local security leaders such as the recent attempt on the life of Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef. During Al-Qaeda’s existence in Saudi Arabia, the narrative was mainly confined to advising the scientists, whereas in Yemen it came up to the level of accusing them of treachery and working for the best interest, called the Zionist Crusader Campaign through those in charge, meaning the Al Saud, the governors of Riyadh. Al-Qaeda then started advising those called “the Religious men of the awakening” such as Dr. Safr Al Hawali and Dr. Salman Al Awdah. These are currently being accused and attacked.

Al Qaeda’s modern history started on the third of February 2006, a date that was marked by digging an underground tunnel below the political security jail in Sana’a. The tunnel was 45 meters long and 5 meters deep, took 55 days of work and 23 workers, who were fugitives. The U.S. publicized the names of 13 of them as wanted and dangerous members of Al-Qaeda.

After the success of some of the most prominent leaders of Al-Qaeda in escaping prison, Bin Laden sent out a clear message in July of the same year, addressing the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as “the traitor who obeys the U.S.”. This was a clear message for those who escaped safely to work on taking him down. It was the beginning of a war against Ali Abdulla Saleh, since before this time, all the past speeches only mentioned Saudi leaders. In the current stage, started in 2006, Al-Qaeda recorded 4 assassination attempts on security leaders, three of which succeeded. The Mohammad Bin Nayef assassination attempt failed despite the fact that Al-Qaeda managed to penetrate his security. There were also 3 attacks on the U.S. Embassy and South Korean Tourists and their investigators, but those operations failed to achieve the intended results.

Finally, for the first time, Al-Qaeda undertook their first operation from Yemen targeting the U.S., an action executed by the 23 year old Nigerian, Omar Farouq Abdel Mottaleb. He managed to travel through six international airports armed with a bomb that he tried to detonate over Detroit Airport in the U.S. Omar is now facing six charges, one of which is using a weapon of mass destruction.

In its present stage, Al-Qaeda is prioritizing its media and promotional aspects. 2008 has witnessed the birth of the Epics Foundation. They have issued four promotional films, a bi-monthly magazine and religious studies. The foundation has also been marketing their data and keeping track of Al-Qaeda’s activities, covering them locally as a result of media and press accessibility in Yemen. This is something Al-Qaeda lacked during its earlier stages in different parts of the world.

Continue to Part 3

Categories: AL Qaeda, SAU, USA, YEM