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Failed AQIM assassination spurs Mauritania debate

February 9, 2011 Comments off

The following article is republished with permission from Magharebia.
 

Failed AQIM assassination spurs Mauritania debate
Source:  Magharebia
By Mohamed Yahya Ould Abdel Wedoud
February 9, 2011

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) issued a statement Monday (February 7th) that said the aim behind its failed Nouakchott attack was to assassinate President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Mauritanian troops successfully defended the capital but questions were raised by some about the ability of suicide bombers to enter the country.

“Al-Qaeda operates in a vast region extending from northern Mali to Chad,” explained Islamic movement expert Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Abou El Maali. “They have also started to find a foothold in Niger; something that makes any attempt to geographically besiege them a difficult thing for the Mauritanian army or any other army.”

The AQIM statement said that the terrorists managed “to get past military fortifications and barriers en route to Nouakchott to assassinate the president”, billed in the text as an “agent of France”.

“[Abdel Aziz] is the first president in the region to declare war on al-Qaeda and tracks them down in their stronghold on the outskirts of the Malian desert; something that other regimes in the region have avoided,” Ould Abou El Maali told Magharebia.

The analyst added that the al-Qaeda operation “was a clear message to the region’s presidents, in which it warned them against any military or economic crackdown on the organisation”.

“The problem is that al-Qaeda has also started to explore the Senegalese and Malian borders with Mauritania, with the aim of allowing its elements to easily infiltrate into the depth of Mauritania amid tough and complex terrain characterised by dense forests,” Ould Abou El Maali said.

The Mauritanian army was making progress on securing the borders, having set up security points on the northern and eastern borders, journalist Isselmou Ould Moustaffa said. “Therefore, we notice that al-Qaeda elements this time used uncontrolled border points, such as the Malian-Senegalese borders.”

Ould Moustaffa added that the AQIM message was “a political manoeuvre and nothing else”. He told Magharebia that “all the data confirms that al-Qaeda’s recent operation against Mauritania was not targeting the president but the French embassy and a military barracks, as shown in the official account and in the confessions of al-Qaeda elements who were arrested”.

“Al-Qaeda’s announcement of the assassination attempt against the president aims to terrorise the head of the ruling regime in Mauritania and make him feel that he is targeted,” Ould Moustaffa said. “This is very obvious for a simple reason: with its operations, al-Qaeda is targeting the Mauritanian state, and therefore, is targeting the president whether it announced that or not.”

Politicians were equally critical of the AQIM claim, with Union for the Republic Party spokesman Moktar Ould Abdellahi saying the message was “to say that they still have a presence”.

“The terrorist organisations in northern Mali and the Sahara have lost the compass that has been guiding them for several months following the blows that were dealt them by the Mauritanian army. The latest operation has shown that al-Qaeda fighters need to carry out a major operation to say that they still exist. However, they no longer have a presence,” Ould Abdellahi said.

The president “has adopted a tough security policy against al-Qaeda”, Habib Ly said. “In addition, he has organised a lot of religious gatherings aimed at convincing young people to relinquish extremism and fanaticism; something in which al-Qaeda saw as a serious, and even daring, attempts to eliminate them.”

[End.]
__________

Magharebia is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defence, Africa Command.

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Categories: AL Qaeda, CHAD, MALI, MAURITANIA, NIGER, SEN

Al-Qaeda Announces Holy War against Houthis

January 30, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Yemen Post, Sana’a.
 

Al-Qaeda Announces Holy War against Houthis
©  Yemen Post
January 30, 2011

Yemen Post Staff

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced on its website jihad (holy war) against the Houthi northern Shiites.

In an audio message posted on the Internet, Saeed Ali Al-Shihri, deputy leader of the Yemen-based (AQAP), said that Houthis in Sa’ada, Jawf, and Amran will face a strong war against them, calling on Sunni Muslims in northern Yemeni provinces to be with (AQAP). He accused Iran’s regime of backing Shiite rebels.

“Jihad against northern Shiites has been declared since the implementation of the AQAP’s twin martyred car bombing attacks against convoys of Shiite rebels’ in the northern provinces of Jawf and Sa’ada on Nov. 24 and Nov. 26 of the last year,” he said.

Last year two bombings occurred in northern Yemen with one targeting a procession on its way to celebrate a religious Zaidi ceremony, Eid Al-Ghadir, in Jawf killing almost 24 and wounded several others. The other targeted Houthi followers traveling in Sa’ada to participate in a funeral, killing two mourners and wounding eight.

[End.]

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Categories: AL Qaeda, IRN, YEM

YEMEN: Al-Wahishi not dead, says expert

January 6, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Yemen Times, Sana’a.

Al-Wahishi not dead, says expert
©  Yemen Times
By Ali Saeed
January 6, 2011

Naser Abdulkareem Al-Wahishi, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is still alive, an expert on Al-Qaeda, Saeed Ubaid, told the Yemen Times.

Media reports claimed yesterday that Al-Wahishi was killed in Pakistan by an American drone at the end of December.

But Ubaid disagreed: “I do not think that Al-Wahishi had gone to Waziristan as the organization in Yemen needs him”.

Al-Wahishi was said to be killed three times; twice by the Yemeni government during operations carried out against Al-Qaeda by Yemen in September 2010 and now, for the third time, by the Pakistani government.

Some media reports this week claimed that Pakistani officials confirmed that Al-Wahishi was killed on December 28 when two American missiles were fired on a militant camp at the Ghulam Khan sub-district of North Waziristan in Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda until now has not recognized the death of its leader and published his article in a recent copy of its magazine, Sada Al-Malahem (Echo of Battles).

“That is an indicator that he is still alive,” said Ubaid.

He explained that Al-Wahishi might have been wounded and that is why his media appearance has decreased recently.

He also said that evidence of Al-Wahishi’s existence was the tape recording published two months ago that he would protect Anwar Al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen of Yemeni origin who is on the U.S.’s kill or capture list.

“If he was killed, Al-Qaeda would announce that and include him on its martyrs list,” said Ubaid.

He noted that until now those who claimed to have killed Al-Wahishi have not proven any evidence of that.

The expert supported his claim with the fact that Yemen’s security sources in the past announced the killing of some Al-Qaeda leaders but these persons appeared to be alive after these claims were made.

“We cannot trust security sources for killing an Al-Qaeda leader, as Ayd Al-Shabwani was announced to be killed four times by the Yemen’s security sources, Qasim Al-Raimi was announced to be killed twice by the Yemen’s security sources,” he explained.

Al-Wahishi was appointed as a leader of formerly-named Al-Qaeda in Yemen in 2007 after he escaped with 23 Yemeni captives from a security prison in Sana’a in 2006.

When the two Al-Qaeda branches in Yemen and Saudi Arabia merged in January 2009, Al-Wahishi was announced as leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

[Photo:  Al Qaeda magazine via Yemen Times]

[End.]

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Categories: AL Qaeda, USA, YEM

YEMEN: Al-Qaeda remains security threat in 2011

January 3, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Yemen Times, Sana’a.

Al-Qaeda remains security threat in 2011
©  Yemen Times
By Ali Saeed
January 3, 2011

Al-Qaeda will remain a security threat in Yemen this year, a political analyst told the Yemen Times yesterday, after the organization claimed responsibility for at least 49 attacks.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) announced in their latest edition of the Arabic magazine Sada Al-Malahem (Echo of Battles), that it was responsible for carrying out 49 operations between May and October last year in different areas of Yemen.

“Their announcement shows that they are still strong and in continuous confrontation with security forces,” said political analyst Dr. Mohamed Al-Qadi. “It also indicates that Al-Qaeda is going to remain present this year.”

He explained that AQAP’s magazine accurately reflected the 49 operations, which targeted security and military checkpoints. Some of the operations were aimed at assassinating high ranking officers and leaders in Yemen’s army and security forces, according to the magazine’s operations section.

The magazine’s report explained that most of the operations were concentrated in southern governorates, especially Shabwa and Abyan in the south-east of the country.

It indicated that the terrorist organization carried out 13 operations in five governorates against security officers and leaders. Six operations were executed in Abyan governorate.

Five officers were killed in five operations, while the last attack targeted the governor of Abyan, Ahmed Al-Misary, when he was in a military convoy hunting Al-Qaeda suspects last August. The governor survived, but eight of his bodyguards, including his brother, were killed.

Al-Qadi said that that AQAP started a new trend in 2010, the second year of operations for the new branch of Al-Qaeda, formed in January 2009 and its tactics now included targeting Yemen’s army and police.

“Targeting Yemen’s police is a development of Al-Qaeda tactics, as they found the police standing between them and their targets which are western interests,” he said.

AQAP also said in the fifty-page magazine that it was responsible for killing three police officers in Hadramout and another two police officers in Lahj.

The magazine authors also confirmed that the organization assassinated the deputy chief of criminal investigation in Marib governorate, Mohamed Fara’, at the end of August last year. It claimed that Fara’ was hunting down jihadists and hiring informants against Al-Qaeda.

The last operation targeted Colonel Ali Mohamed Salah Al-Husam, the deputy chief of the Political Security Organization in Sa’ada governorate, where Al-Husam was taken as prisoner last October, the report claims.

Other operations were carried out in Lahj, Abyan and Shabwa and took place between July and October. Only two operations were carried out in the capital, Sana’a. The first one targeted a minibus that was carrying political intelligence officers and the second targeted the British deputy ambassador in October 2010. The attempted assassination, in April, of British ambassador Tim Torlot was not mentioned.

The report denied that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack against Al-Wahda sports club in Aden, which killed at least four people and wounded 14 others on October 11, 2010.

Al-Qaeda said that only five of its militants were killed and four were injured during operations last year.

[End.]

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Categories: AL Qaeda, YEM

Moroccan forces apprehend six suspected members of an internet-based terrorist group

December 29, 2010 Comments off

The following article is republished with permission from Magharebia.

Morocco dismantles terror cell
Source:  Magharebia
By Sarah Touahri
December 29, 2010

Security services in Morocco broke up an alleged terror network involved “in what is known as cyber-terrorism”, the Interior Ministry announced on Monday (December 27th). The terrorists were suspected of planning car bomb attacks both inside Morocco and abroad.

“Members of this network have acquired a broad experience in the making of explosives and planned to use it in sabotage acts in several international hotspots… as well as within national territory,” the ministry said.

The six suspects were reportedly arrested December 10th in Oujda, Nador and Casablanca. According to the officials, a special team of high-level experts is pursuing terrorist groups operating on the internet to prevent attacks.

Terrorists are making much use of computer technology, including the internet, political analyst Mohamed Chemlali told Magharebia. They can use the web not only to convey radical messages to the public, young people in particular, but also to train terrorists and prepare them to carry out attacks.

“The internet is like a school for terrorists, because it contains all the information they need. The web is being used increasingly by terrorists to communicate with each other. Security failings must be addressed so that the public can be protected from terrorist plots,” he said.

According to professor of political science Mohamed Darif, despite the efforts made by the security services, terrorist groups are continuing to multiply. In his view, the latest group to have been caught differed from others in that its members were experts on explosives, which marks a turning point in the creation of terrorist groups in Morocco that must be watched closely.

Since the 2003 Casablanca attacks, the Moroccan authorities have captured over 60 terrorist groups, according to the official sources. Security officials and experts constantly underline the importance of stepping up regional and international co-operation to close the net on terrorists, especially in the Sahel, which is a breeding ground for terrorists allied with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

According to sociologist Samira Kassimi, the fight against terrorism is the responsibility of everyone, beginning with parents, who should protect their children against the threat posed by cyber-terrorism by teaching them about the dangers.

“Young people spend a lot of time browsing the internet and can come across terrorists who may manipulate them. You must always keep an eye on your children,” she said.

For his part, MP Mohamed Ansari emphasised that the capture of this latest group makes it essential to be vigilant and strengthen the law by adding provisions concerning the internet.

[End.]
__________

Magharebia is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defence, Africa Command.

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Categories: AL Qaeda, MOR

More U.S. intervention in Yemen’s anti-terror plans

December 27, 2010 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Yemen Times, Sana’a.

More U.S. intervention in Yemen’s anti-terror plans
©  Yemen Times
By Ali Saeed
December 27, 2010

The Yemeni Ministry of Interior’s announcement on Friday that it will create four new anti-terrorism branches for units in Shabwa, Marib, Hadramout and Abyan is a response to direct pressure from the United States.

Saeed Ubaid, an expert on Al-Qaeda, told the Yemen Times that the U.S. has recently become increasingly demanding on Yemen regarding combating terrorism. He said that this new move by the Yemeni government was in direct response to U.S. pressure on the Yemen government to step-up its efforts against terrorism.

“The increasing demands of the U.S. on Yemen have become like an order and not cooperation,” said Ubaid.

“And that makes us feel that the U.S. wants to fight a proxy war against AQAP.”

Ubaid claims that one of the most recent demands from the U.S. has been for Yemen to provide intelligence information about members of Al-Qaeda, arrested or being held by, the Yemeni government.

He described the expansion of anti-terrorism units to cover the four governorates as “a forward movement”, as long as they can prove efficient, are well equipped and local security leaders in the areas support them.

The Ministry of Interior said that its move aimed to “tighten the noose on terrorists and to paralyze their movements where they hideout”.

“Yemen has never been, and never will be a safe haven for terrorism,” it said.

The ministry claimed the step would advance its confrontation with Al-Qaeda elements to “a closing stage to root them out of Yemen”.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the recent parcel bomb plot. Packages were sent to the U.S. from Yemen and intercepted in Dubai and London at the end of October.

The four governorates chosen for the new units have witnessed intense clashes between Al-Qaeda elements and Yemen’s security forces, said Saeed.

“Shabwa is the home of Fahd Al-Qasa, listed by the FBI as the third most-wanted terrorist and the U.S. born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki,” he said.

Lauder city in Abyan governorate, where one of the branches of the counterterrorism unit will be based, was announced as an “Islamic state by Al-Qaeda,” according to Ubaid.

Similarly, Marib, where one of the branches will be established, is also considered a heaven for Al-Qaeda in Yemen, he said.

Hadramout will host the largest of the new bases. A number of the governorate’s local security leaders have been targeted by AQAP in 2009 and 2010, according to the Ministry of Interior. In March 2009, a suicide bomber in Shibam killed four South Korean tourists, which Al-Qaeda later claimed responsibility for.

[End.]

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Categories: AL Qaeda, USA, YEM

Agent Provocateurs: Al-Qaida’s New Strategy in Yemen

December 9, 2010 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from International Relations & Security Network (ISN), Center for Security Studies, Zurich.

Agent Provocateurs:  Al-Qaida’s New Strategy in Yemen
©  Jarret Brachman
Source:  ISN
December 9, 2010

U.S. policymakers must be ever cognizant of the trap that al-Qaida hopes to lay by using agent provocateurs in deepening U.S. engagement in Yemen and in pushing the Yemeni government to the brink of collapse.

Earlier this year, al-Qaida’s top cleric updated the group’s strategy for exploiting American involvement in the Middle East. The cleric, Shaykh Abu Yahya al-Libi, presented the strategy in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 Christmas Day bombing attempt, which meant that it got little fanfare from al-Qaida’s supporters and drew even less attention from western counterterrorism analysts.

Titled, “Yemen to the United States: I Sacrifice Myself for Your Sake,” Abu Yahya offered a new look at al-Qaida’s approach to the U.S. in the Yemeni context. He argued that, by continuously provoking the U.S., al-Qaida would be able to harness America’s manic need to act, thereby luring it into meddling with Yemen’s domestic affairs and inadvertently alienating the government from the people, thus setting the stage for a domestic al-Qaida coup.

However, unlike in 2001 when al-Qaida’s goal was to remove U.S. influence from the Middle East, the movement’s new goal of enmeshing the U.S. in Yemeni affairs as much as possible is purely instrumental. It is aimed at getting the U.S. to convince the Yemeni people that their government had become nothing more than a handmaiden for the U.S. and its interests.

A new strategy

For decades, marginal violent movements within Islam have been fruitlessly trying to overthrow Arab governments. Frustrated with their repeated failures, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaida’s senior leadership concluded that it was U.S. military support to these regimes that had to be removed from the equation before toppling them. Al-Qaida consequently shifted its targeting strategy: rather than continue its policy of hammering Arab governments – its “near” enemy – the group’s leadership came to believe that a few painful strikes against the “far” enemy of the U.S. would weaken the country’s resolve in supporting those regimes. Without their U.S. backers, al-Qaida predicted, those governments would be ripe for overthrow.

However, as the U.S. grew more entangled in the region, fighting two wars and engaging in extensive counterterrorism cooperation in the region, al-Qaida came to understand that severing the ties between the U.S. and Arab regimes would be next to impossible. Instead, al-Qaida formulated a new plan, one premised on embracing increasing American involvement in the Middle East. Al-Qaida’s new goal was to entice the U.S. to double-down on its commitment in the region and then use America’s involvement with Arab governments against them.

The strategy outlined by Abu Yahya is built on two assumptions about the U.S. First, according to his analysis, the U.S. has been so haunted by the specter of terrorism that al-Qaida now need only shout “boo!” and the U.S. will run, “staggering and stumbling like a drunk and confused person”, into its next foreign policy nightmare. Part of the reason for America’s ‘shoot-first’ mentality, he argues, is its delusional aspiration to comprehensively protect the country from al-Qaida.

In other words, American policymakers – goaded by an emotional public and feverish media scrutiny – have no choice but to throw money at protecting themselves from terrorism, if only to make it appear as if they are making progress. Over time, however, U.S. policymakers inadvertently perpetuate the idea that an air-tight security cocoon might just be achievable, if only YouTube removes enough Anwar al-Awlaki videos here, and its Transportation Security Agency (TSA) deploys enough body scanners there.

Abu Yahya’s second – and most important – assumption is that the U.S. cannot send its own military forces into Yemen as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq. With America’s poor track record in fighting jihadists head-on over the past two decades, its cash-strapped economy, and an exhausted military and a public unwilling to lose more lives in the region, the U.S. is simply unable to consider putting American boots on Yemeni ground, he contends.

Instead, America’s only viable option – given its neurotic compulsion to “do” things, he argues – will be to pour money into an undertrained and unreliable Yemeni military so they can hunt al-Qaida on America’s behalf. The problem with waging war by proxy, he explains, is that the more the Obama administration claims to be supporting the Yemeni regime, the less credibility and independence the government will hold in the eyes of its people, particularly as the U.S. pressures it to do unpopular things. In time, as the Yemeni government tries in vain to please two masters, it will alienate itself from its core supporters and eventually collapse, leaving the country ripe for an al-Qaida revolution.

Enter the provocateur

Abu Yahya’s assessment is idealistic, yes, but certainly not absurd. He raises many important critiques of America’s historically near-sighted foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and its spasmodic bureaucratic reflexes when terrorist attacks slip through the security cracks.

Enter Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-Yemeni cleric now operating under the rubric of al-Qaida’s Yemeni franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Awlaki, the populist preacher turned violent jihadist poster child, now plays the role for AQAP that al-Qaida’s senior leadership had hoped another American, Adam Gadahn, would play for them: a provocateur. Al-Qaida seemed to think that promoting Gadahn would drive the U.S. berserk, knowing that one of its own was aiding the enemy. At the same time, they believed he would facilitate a recruiting boon, drawing westerners into al-Qaida’s orbit. If Gadahn could do it, so could they.

On the contrary, Gadahn became a laughing stock within the American discourse on terrorism, viewed as absurd and anomalous. He did, however, serve a useful role for al-Qaida when trying to demonstrate metrics of progress to their Arab supporters: Gadahn showed that their appeal was expanding.

Al-Awlaki has created a draw for the U.S. media, and an image within the collective American psyche, that Gadahn could not. His influence is likely due to his broad-based appeal: liking al-Awlaki does not mean that you support al-Qaida, but supporting al-Qaida now means that you probably like al-Awlaki, an increasingly popular and prominent figure among hardliners. He confounds understandings of conventional boundaries within the movement. He blurs distinctions in a way that lowers the barrier of entry to more people in the West.

It is precisely because of al-Awlaki’s unbridled “American-ness” and the impact that he seems to increasingly have in convincing Muslims in the West to go operational, that he is serving as one of those ‘lures’ that Abu Yahya believed would draw more and more American resources, time and attention to Yemen.

U.S. policymakers must, therefore, be ever cognizant of the trap that al-Qaida hopes it can lay by using agent provocateurs such as package bombs or American-styled preachers. While emotionally tempting to chase al-Awlaki around Yemen with drones or openly back the Yemeni military in its effort to bring him to justice, the long-term implications could play directly into the hands of the movement.

That said, where Abu Yahya gets his strategy most wrong, is in assuming that U.S. support for Yemen has to be publically trumpeted. If patience prevails and if the Obama administration gives counterterrorism professionals the time, discretion and resources they need, the U.S. will be able to empower Yemen to stay stable and strong in its fight against al-Qaida.

[End.]
__________

Jarret Brachman is a counterterrorism specialist, author and public lecturer with a PhD from the University of Delaware. A former Director of Research at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, he currently works at the North Dakota State University and conduts private consulting on al-Qaida for clients inside and outside of government. He published his first book titled “Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice” in 2008 and is currently working on a book titled “The Next Bin Ladin”.

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Categories: AL Qaeda, USA, YEM