In a recent interview posted to jihadi websites, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen claims the organization possesses nuclear weapons and vows to attack U.S. and Western interests to compel them to withdraw their forces from the region (hanein.info, January 27).
According to the interview, the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen, 33-year-old Nasir Abdul Kareem al-Wahayshi (a.k.a. Abu Basir), was Osama Bin Laden’s secretary until he was arrested by Iran and extradited to Yemen in February 2002. Al-Wahayshi has been a fugitive since he escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006 (see Terrorism Focus, February 7, 2006; March 18, 2008). In 2008, the second man in al-Qaeda, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, commended al-Wahayshi and named him the Amir of Mujahideen in Yemen. Since then, there has been a growing unity between al-Qaeda’s Saudi and Yemeni affiliates and the mainstream al-Qaeda group in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region. Led by an Amir, a deputy Amir, and a military and Shura council, the Saudi and Yemeni affiliates have joined together as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
On the war in Gaza, al-Wahayshi said that the Muslim nation is longing for jihad, as is evident from the protests that broke out everywhere, but accused Hamas of refusing to receive the Salafi-jihadis that tried to aid Palestinians in the fighting. The Arab mujahideen went to Afghanistan only to prepare for jihad in Palestine, but before the mujahideen can go to Palestine, the blockade imposed by Arab regimes should be broken – an implicit call to topple Arab regimes, or what al-Qaeda identifies as "the near enemy." In the meantime, al-Wahayshi believes it is necessary to also attack the interests of the supporters of Israel, the United States and Europe in the Arabian Peninsula: "The Crusaders’ campaign on our people in Palestine, Somalia and Afghanistan uses the Arabian Peninsula as a launching pad. The U.S., British and French fleets in the region are only there to protect the Jews in Palestine. The Arab leaders, among them the Yemeni leader [President Ali Abdullah Saleh], vigorously contribute military and logistical aid to the Crusaders’ campaign."
Al-Wahayshi further asserts that until the mujahideen are able to infiltrate into Palestine and fight the Jews, Western tourists are a legitimate target for the mujahideen, as the tourists are part of the Crusaders’ campaign. Western tourists are either Christian missionaries, depraved individuals, or Western government agents spying on Muslims. Al-Wahayshi justifies killing Muslims who protect Christian and Jewish interests such as embassies and cultural centers, referring to al-Qaeda’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Sana’a in September 2008 in which six Yemeni security personnel, six attackers, and four bystanders were killed. "Shame on those who protect the embassies of the Crusaders’ countries. Shame on them to watch U.S. rockets and Israeli white phosphorus shells tearing up and burning Gaza children and still protect their interests," says al-Wahayshi.
Asked why al-Qaeda targets the oil industry infrastructure that serves the economy of a Muslim country when the majority of employees in that industry are Muslims, al-Wahayshi insisted that Muslims do not benefit from Yemeni oil. On the contrary, it only sustains the lifeline of the Crusaders and Zionists who are attacking Muslims, thanks to President Saleh. On the topic of tourism, al-Wahayshi insists Muslims should not allow infidel Jews and Christians into the Arabian Peninsula in the name of tourism or any other purpose.
On the Yemeni leadership, al-Wahayshi refuses to recognize the authority of the Yemeni president, alleging that he came to power through sham elections: "Democracy is a religion invented and imposed on Muslim nations by the United States to create grudges and animosity among them. Democracy drains the energy of Muslim youths by keeping them occupied with elections and leaves the nation powerless and acquiescent to the Crusaders’ campaign."
Refuting President Saleh’s declaration that al-Qaeda extremists have no vision and only blow up and kill innocent people, al-Wahayshi said the Yemeni president has been stealing government funds and destroying the country for years without a vision or plan for the well being of the country and its people. Al-Wahayshi claims Yemen’s president has turned Yemen into a base for Crusaders and Zionists. Al-Qaeda therefore aims to replace the current regime with a just and secure Islamic Shari’a government in Yemen that will end U.S. influence in the region. The Amir adds that mujahideen attacks on U.S. interests have weakened the U.S. economy, as seen in the current world economic crisis. Finally, al-Wahayshi claims al-Qaeda possesses a nuclear weapon and only refrained from using it in the 9/11 attacks because those attacks were only al-Qaeda’s "first message" to the Americans.
Many ordinary Yemenis believe the nation’s "enemies" are propagating false allegations that Yemen is becoming a regional base for al-Qaeda in order to damage its relations with Saudi Arabia (al-yemen.org January 25). Others anticipate more international support for the Yemeni government in its fight against AQAP in Yemen in response to AQAP’s formation. Answering AQAP’s threats, Yemen’s Interior Ministry said the Yemeni security apparatus is on high alert and is conducting security sweeps of all possible AQAP hideouts, adding that Yemen and Saudi Arabia are cooperating fully to apprehend AQAP members (Dar al-Hayat, January 31).<iframe src=’https://www.jamestown.org/jamestown.org/inner_menu.html’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>