– Al-Qaeda in Yemen reorganizes under former Osama bin Laden secretary, Nasir al-Wahaysi
– Funding and logistical support for the group predominantly comes from Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda counterpart
– Media production improves, signifying popularity and support for the group
– AQY’s reorganization and current group dynamics indicate perpetual strengthening of capabilities and intentions in the near to mid-term
The al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQY) organization has undergone a number of structural changes in the last two years. Most important is the group’s leadership, which has been reorganized under an energized 32-year old former bin Laden secretary, Nasir al-Wahaysi. Under al-Wahaysi, AQY has been increasingly active in conducting attacks and producing media propaganda, as well as in synchronizing financial and logistical backing from neighboring powerhouse and like-minded organization, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As the group continues to operate under the direction of al-Wahaysi and his new guard of energized youths, it is likely that the AQY will continue to gain strength and build its capacity in the near to mid-term.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Over the course of the last two years, a divisive schism within the ranks of AQY has occurred, pitting younger more radicalized members against the moderate old guard. It is largely believed that the chief catalyst for the clash was the appointment of Nasir al-Wahaysi as leader of the AQY. One of 23 men who escaped from a Yemeni prison in February 2006, upon his escape and subsequent take over of AQY, al-Wahayshi vowed revenge against the Yemeni government and its Western allies (Previous Report). He warned older members that jihad could not wait until the release of more prisoners. Instead, he called on new and young members to revamp the energy of AQY and conduct more attacks on government infrastructures, economic targets, and Westerners in the country.
As a booster to al-Wahaysi’s mission, the AQAP organization, headquartered in neighboring Saudi Arabia, has been excitedly funding and lending logistical support to the AQY. An appeal to Saudi mujahideen posted in AQY’s online magazine by Nayef bin Mohamed al-Khatany, a Saudi member of AQAP believed to be hiding in Yemen, states: “Come to Yemen and fight.” Al-Khatany was recently accused by the Yemen authorities as being the main financier of the double attacks on Yemen’s oil installations in Marib and Hadramaut in September 2006 .
Al-Khatany’s statement admits that the Saudi Arabian AQAP has lost its battle in the Kingdom as a large portion of its members have been killed or imprisoned. He calls on the remaining members to come to Yemen to fight, and if they choose to remain in Saudi Arabia, their mission is to appropriate funding for the attacks in Yemen. As a result, multiple divisions of the group have advanced in order to fulfill the call for jihad, particularly the AQY’s media arm.
Advanced Media Productions
The publication of the second issue of Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battles) in March 2008 illustrated the degree to which AQY has reorganized itself in Yemen, and more importantly, where the group’s loyalties truly lie. No longer is the journal published by al-Qaeda in Yemen, but rather by “the al-Qaeda Organization of Jihad in the South of the Arabian Peninsula.” Moreover, the group’s claim of the attack on the presidential palace on May 1, 2008, paid respects and attributed the attack to the support of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula (Previous Report, Terrorist Attack).
AQY’s advanced media productions includes propaganda and recruitment statements, as well as tributes to the group’s attack and operations cell, the Yemen Soldiers Brigades. The organization and leadership under al-Wahayshi has demonstrated the group’s ability to rally together to conduct multiple attacks and gather the support and financial assistance of neighboring parent group, AQAP. As the group continues to advance its media and attack operations, we anticipate more terrorist attacks in the near to mid-term.