Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula





    AQAP militants holding the group's flag. [1]

    Status: ACTIVE
    AKA: Al Qaeda in Yemen, AQAP, Lions of al Haramain
    Formed: 2003
    Area of Operation: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen (Headquarters)
    Ideology: Religious (Islamist – Sunni, Wahhabi)
    Group: 200[2] members
    Leader: Nasr Abdul Karim Al-Wahayshi
    Affiliates: Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM), Jund al-Yaman, Taliban


    Organizational History

    The group follows a two branched approach similar to what bin Laden has publicly expressed; specifically, the group has adopted a two-pronged assault to target and damage both the near enemy (the Saudi monarchy) and the far enemy (the West). The group’s approach demonstrates a commitment to both goals.[3] According to the group’s magazine, Sada al Malahim, AQAP will focus on cutting support from Western nations into Israel.

    As in many places around the world, the 9/11 attacks served as a watershed event that operated as a catalyst for the formation of ideologically aligned al-Qaeda groups. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been one of the most deadly ideologically aligned groups formed to date. AQAP’s existence was first announced on May 6, 2003, when Saudi police raided a house in Riyadh, uncovering a large amount of explosives. This was the first discovery of many terrorist cells present in the Kingdom [4] which were all loosely connected through a support structure that extended throughout the peninsula. Though the Saudi government’s response to the wave of terrorism has been brutal and swift, AQAP’s structure has remained intact, and has even encouraged the formation of other parallel groups. Most recently, on January 24, 2009, the al Qaeda group in Yemen and AQAP announced their merger under the latter’s title [5]. Out of both groups, AQY was more active and deadly, claiming various attacks in the last three years targeting U.S. installations, Yemeni government complexes, and other foreign embassies in Sana’a. It was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State in December of 2009.


    AQAP has a cellular structure and is a loosely knit network of units. The number of cell members does tend to be larger than many urban terrorist cells, comprising around 10-15 individuals. Some of the important cells uncovered to date are the Al Quds Company, Al Falluja Company, and the Tuwayq Brigades.


    Both AQY and AQAP have been known to use SAM-7 Missiles, hand grenades, RPGs, RDX explosive material, and Kalashnikov rifles. Prior to the merger, AQAP was receiving explosives and weapons from Yemen. In April 2005, for example, Saudi border guards thwarted an attempt to smuggle explosives into Saudi Arabia from Yemen near the Hesn Al Hammad border post.


    The funds rely primarily on imams at mosques who divert zakat (charitable donations) to the organization. The group exerts a certain amount of control over various charitable organizations.[6]


    AQAP recruitment activity is conducted through a number of activities, including through ideologically similar mosques and the internet. The internet may be the group’s most effective method of recruitment; for example, the twelfth issue of Al-Battar Camp online magazine had in its introduction a call for readers to join small groups and to plan terrorist attacks in accordance with the tactical lesson that had been published by the group. These types of online recruitment operations are continually performed by the group both through its publications and through online chat rooms where recruitment videos have even been released.


    The thirteenth issue of Al-Battar Camp online magazine warned Muslims to avoid contact with potential al Qaeda targets, specifically Christian/Western companies, airlines, oil companies, and tourist hotspots. Militant attacks against Westerners and government targets and economic interests in the kingdom have surged despite a high-profile campaign against terrorists. The militants are using several tactics, including armed assaults, guerrilla style ambushes, suicide bombings, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Foreign fighters in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been connected to the group, and are suspected of engaging in various insurgent tactics against coalition security forces. The group was also thrust into the spotlight with the recent attack on a Northwest Airlines flight descending into the Detroit airport on December 25, 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab, claiming that he was given logistical support and training by AQAP in Yemen, ignited pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) explosives on his body in an effort to bring down the flight. While the terrorist was largely unsuccessful in reaching his goal, much more attention has since been paid to the activities of the terrorist group and their potential threat to other targets.


    Al-Battar Camp; web magazine

    Saut al-Jihad (Voice of Jihad); web magazine

    The Echo of the Epic Battles (Sada Al-Malahim); magazine

    Inspire; English web magazine (released July 2010)



    Four of AQAP's senior leaders announced the formation of the group in January 2009. [7]


    Nasser al-Wahishi, a former personal secretary to Osama Bin Laden, leads AQAP.[8]


    American citizen and AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.[9]


    AQAP's active propaganda wing, al-Malahim, regularly releases material, including the English-language Inspire magazine. [10]


    AQAP militant Abdullah al-Asiri failed in his attempt to kill Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef with a suicide bomb in September 2009. [11]


    Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb made by AQAP experts.[12]


    1. Retrieved from [1]
    2. Butters, A. L. (2010, January 7). Yemen: The most fragile ally. Time. Retrieved from [2] world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html
    3. Katzman, K. (2005). Al Qaeda: Profile and threat assessment. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service (CRS).
    4. Hoffman, B. (2004). The changing face of al Qaeda and the global war on terrorism. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 27(6), 549-560.
    5. “Video shows Saudi, Yemeni Al-Qa’ida leaders announce merger”. (2009, January 24). Open Source Center Report – FEA20090124809516 [World News Connection].
    6. “Funding in Afghanistan.” Retrieved on January 31, 2006, from [3] world/para/al-qaida-funding.htm
    7. AP. (2009, January). Retrieved from [4]
    8. Retrieved from [5]
    9. SITE Intelligence Group. (n.d.). Retrieved from [6]
    10. Retrieved from [7]
    11. Retrieved from [8]
    12. AP. (2009, December). Retrieved from [9]

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