Al Qaida operatives in Yemen target all nationalities
By Saeed Al Batati, Correspondent
March 6, 2012
Sana'a: Al Qaida in Yemen has many leaders. Nasser Al Wahishi, who escaped along with 22 other Al Qaida prisoners from the Central Security prison in Sana'a in 2006, became the leader of the organisation. Led by Al Wahishi, Al Qaida's Yemeni and Saudi wings merged in 2009 in a new group called Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Other AQAP senior commanders include Abu Hurira Al Raymi, field commander and Saud Al Shehri.
"Jalal Belbiedi came on the scene when militants controlled Abyan province last year. He was appointed as the military ruler of AQAP."
AQAP has recently lost many commanders either in confrontation with the government or by American drones. Anwar Al Awlaqi, an American-born Muslim cleric, was assassinated by a drone in September 2011.
In the past, Al Qaida used to mainly carry out attacks on American and British citizens and facilities in Yemen.
Al Qaida operatives attacked the destroyer USS Cole in October 2000 in Aden. At least 17 US marines were killed. The terrorists also destroyed French tanker Limburg in 2002, which was anchored off Mukalla.
In the following years, Al Qaida not only targeted Americans and Britons, many other nationalities were included in its list. In 2007, eight Spanish tourists were killed in Mareb. A year later, two Belgians were shot dead in Hadramout. In 2009, a suicide bomber claimed the lives of four South Korean tourists in Shibam city.
When Al Qaida in Yemen managed to become stronger by recruiting foreign terrorists, AQAP began to groom suicide bombers to carry out attacks overseas. The Saudi government accused terrorists of being behind a failed suicide attack in 2009 that intended to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef.
The AQAP was also blamed for recruiting the ‘underwear bomber' Omar Farouk Abdul Mutallab who allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound US airliner in December 2009.
In May 2011, as the government was fighting for survival against a wave of protests, AQAP stormed the southern lawless province of Abyan and declared it an Islamic emirate to be the first known stronghold of Al Qaida.
In the past couple of years, AQAP has embarked on a new phase of fighting against the government.