13 March 2012
SANA’A: Last Friday Yemen and the US carried out airstrikes against AQAP hideouts in Abyan and Al-Baidha provinces, killing and wounding scores of civilians alongside alleged terrorists militants. Yemen Interior Ministers said in a statement that 2 Pakistanis, 2 Saudi nationals, 1 Syrian and 1 Iraqi were among the dead in the raid.
The question here is: “are there foreign jihadists in Yemen—if so, where do they come from?”
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula depends very much on foreign fighters alongside Yemeni locals as it needs to maintain a global element to its movement. After AQAP was formed in January 2009 from a merger of the Saudi and Yemeni terror cells the organization realized it needed to internationalize its support system and launch a recruiting campaign. This is when the foreign jihadist movement was formed.
For the first time AQAP allowed Saudi militants to participate as active partners in the organization not only as normal members but also as leaders.
AQAP declared in 2009 that 2 Saudi militants were among its leaders, Said Ali al-Shihri became the deputy commander of the group and Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the bomb maker.
The group in Yemen recruited foreign elements to carry out some targeted attacks against local government facilities, as well as recruiting foreign elements to pursue a similar policy abroad, such as the failed bombing of Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit, which took place on December 25, 2009 with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national being the main perpetrator.
In an interview with the American ambassador to Yemen, published last year, the official revealed that there were several jihadists in Yemen, alongside Yemeni fighters, most of whom came from Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Southern Asia.
Aish Awas, a Yemeni research in AQAP affairs added that some fighters were from America, Britain, Iraq, Sudan, and the United Emirates but in a far lesser numbers.
Moreover, Wikileaks site released last year a US diplomatic cable, which bore the names of some 6 women living in Australia as potential targets of an al-Qaeda plot to recruit women for terror attacks.
The women 4 Australians, 1 Briton and 1 Filipino are among 23 people based in Australia, alleged by Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) and the US State Department to be connected to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The latest batch of confidential and secret cables written by the US embassy in Canberra in January last year, was sent to US intelligence agencies and 15 American diplomatic stations around the world.
Many of these foreign fighters traveled to countries like Yemen for terrorism training. AQAP opened a training camp in the district of Mudiyah in the southern province of Abyan. The camp highlights Yemen’s value to al Qaeda in waging its global terror campaign.
According to residents in Abyan province, that camp sheltered more than 800 local and foreign fighters. Yemenis, Saudis, and Somalis make up the vast majority of the fighters.