Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

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al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
القاعدة في جزيرة العرب
Participant in the al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen,
the Yemeni Revolution, the Yemeni Civil War, and
the Global War on Terror
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg
The Black Standard used by AQAP
ActiveJanuary 2009 – present [1]
Ideology Salafism [2]
Salafist jihadism [2]
Anti-Zionism [3] [4]
Antisemitism [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Qutbism [2]
Leaders Nasir al-Wuhayshi (2011–15) [9]
Qasim al-Raymi (2015–Present) [10]
Headquarters Mukalla, Hadhramaut Governorate [11] (2015-present)
Wadi Belharith and Azzan in Shabwah Governorate [11]
Wadi Obaidah in Ma'rib Governorate [11]
Rada'a District in Al Bayda Governorate [11]
Mudiyah and Lawdar in Abyan Governorate [11]
Area of operations Yemen;
Part ofFlag of Jihad.svg al-Qaeda
Merger of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Islamic Jihad of Yemen
AlliesState allies:

Non-state allies:U

Opponent(s)State opponents

Non-state opponents

Battles and war(s) Yemeni Insurgency

Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)

Designated as a terrorist organisation by
Flag of the United Nations.svg  United Nations
Flag of Europe.svg  European Union
Flag of NATO.svg  NATO
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada
Flag of France.svg  France
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria
Flag of the United States.svg  United States
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates
Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Arabic : تنظيم القاعدة في جزيرة العرب, translit.  Tanẓīm al-Qā‘idah fī Jazīrat al-‘Arab, lit.  ' al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula ' or تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في جزيرة العرب, Tanẓīm Qā‘idat al-Jihād fī Jazīrat al-‘Arab, "Organization of Jihad's Base in the Arabian Peninsula"), or AQAP, also known as Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen (Arabic : جماعة أنصار الشريعة, Jamā‘at Anṣār ash-Sharī‘ah, "Group of the Helpers of the Sharia"), [29] is a militant Islamist organization, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It was named for al-Qaeda, and states it is subordinate to that group and its now-deceased leader Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni heritage. [30] It is considered the most active [31] of al-Qaeda's branches, or "franchises," that emerged due to weakening central leadership. [32] The U.S government believes AQAP to be the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch. [33] The group established an emirate during the 2011 Yemeni Revolution.

The romanization of Arabic writes written and spoken Arabic in the Latin script in one of various systematic ways. Romanized Arabic is used for a number of different purposes, among them transcription of names and titles, cataloging Arabic language works, language education when used in lieu of or alongside the Arabic script, and representation of the language in scientific publications by linguists. These formal systems, which often make use of diacritics and non-standard Latin characters and are used in academic settings or for the benefit of non-speakers, contrast with informal means of written communication used by speakers such as the Latin-based Arabic chat alphabet.

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.

Al-Qaeda Salafi jihadist organization

Al-Qaeda is a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several other Arab volunteers during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.


The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and several countries and international organizations. Since 2015, hundreds of AQAP members were recruited by militias backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the war against the Houthis. [34]

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.

Ideology and formation

Current territorial situation in Yemen. AQAP territory is shown in white, primarily in the Al Bayda and Hadhramaut provinces. Yemeni Civil War.svg
Current territorial situation in Yemen. AQAP territory is shown in white, primarily in the Al Bayda and Hadhramaut provinces.

Like al-Qaeda Central, AQAP opposes the monarchy of the House of Saud. [35] AQAP was formed in January 2009 from a merger of al-Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches. [1] The Saudi group had been effectively suppressed by the Saudi government, forcing its members to seek sanctuary in Yemen. [36] [37] In 2010, it was believed to have several hundred members. [1] The group also seeks for the destruction of the Israeli state and the liberation of the Palestinian territories. [8]

Monarchy system of government where the head of state position is inherited within family

A monarchy is a form of government in which a group, generally a group of people representing a dynasty (aristocracy), embodies the country's national identity and its head, the monarch, exercises the role of supreme sovereignty. The actual power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic, to partial and restricted, to completely autocratic. Traditionally the monarch's post is inherited and lasts until death or abdication. In contrast, elective monarchies require the monarch to be elected. Both types have further variations as there are widely divergent structures and traditions defining monarchy. For example, in some elected monarchies only pedigrees are taken into account for eligibility of the next ruler, whereas many hereditary monarchies impose requirements regarding the religion, age, gender, mental capacity, etc. Occasionally this might create a situation of rival claimants whose legitimacy is subject to effective election. There have been cases where the term of a monarch's reign is either fixed in years or continues until certain goals are achieved: an invasion being repulsed, for instance.

House of Saud the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia

The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia. It is composed of the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Emirate of Diriyah, known as the First Saudi state (1744–1818), and his brothers, though the ruling faction of the family is primarily led by the descendants of Ibn Saud, the modern founder of Saudi Arabia. The most influential position of the royal family is the King of Saudi Arabia. King Salman, who reigns currently, chose first his nephew and then his son as the crown prince without consulting the Allegiance Council. The family is estimated to comprise 15,000 members, but the majority of the power and wealth is possessed by a group of about 2,000 of them.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, officially the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

Transformation into an active al-Qaeda affiliate

AQAP fighters in Yemen, 2014. AQAP fighters in Yemen, 2014.jpg
AQAP fighters in Yemen, 2014.

The percentage of terrorist plots in the West that originated from Pakistan declined considerably from most of them (at the outset), to 75% in 2007, and to 50% in 2010, as al-Qaeda shifted to Somalia and Yemen. [38]

Pakistan federal parliamentary constitutional republic in South Asia

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s sixth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212,742,631 people. In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally designated al-Qaeda in Yemen a terrorist organization on December 14, 2009. [39] On August 24, 2010, The Washington Post journalist Greg Miller wrote that the CIA believed Yemen's branch of al-Qaeda had surpassed its parent organization, Osama bin Laden's core group, as al-Qaeda's most dangerous threat to the U.S. homeland. [40]

Hillary Clinton American politician, senator, Secretary of State, First Lady

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton is an American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker. She served as the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001, U.S. Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, 67th United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, and as the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election, the first woman nominated by a major party.

On August 26, 2010, Yemen claimed that U.S. officials had exaggerated the size and danger of al-Qaeda in Yemen, insisting also that fighting the jihadist network's local branch remained Sanaa's job. [41] A former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden warned of an escalation in fighting between al-Qaeda and Yemeni authorities, and predicted the government would need outside intervention to stay in power.

However, Ahmed al-Bahri told the Associated Press that attacks by al-Qaeda in southern Yemen was an indication of its increasing strength. [42]

Operations and activities carried out as al-Qaeda in Yemen and Saudi Arabia

al-Qaeda was responsible for the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 in the southern port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors. [35] In 2002, an al-Qaeda attack damaged a French supertanker in the Gulf of Aden. [35]

The Global Terrorism Database attributes the 2004 Khobar massacre to the group. [43] In this guise, it is also known as "The Jerusalem Squadron."

In addition to a number of attacks in Saudi Arabia, and the kidnap and murder of Paul Marshall Johnson Jr. in Riyadh in 2004, the group is suspected in connection with a bombing in Doha, Qatar, in March 2005. [44] For a chronology of recent Islamist militant attacks in Saudi Arabia, see terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

Operations and activities carried out as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula


In the 2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, formerly known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe, a Muslim convert who had spent time in Yemen, on June 1, 2009 opened fire with an SKS Rifle in a drive-by shooting on soldiers in front of a United States military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a jihad attack. He killed Private William Long, and wounded Private Quinton Ezeagwula. He said that he was affiliated with and had been sent by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. [45] [46] [47]

AQAP said it was responsible for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on December 25, 2009. [48] In that incident, Abdulmutallab reportedly tried to set off plastic explosives sewn to his underwear, but failed to detonate them properly. [35]


On February 8, 2010, deputy leader Said Ali al-Shihri called for a regional holy war and blockade of the Red Sea to prevent shipments to Israel. In an audiotape he called upon Somalia's al-Shabaab militant group for assistance in the blockade. [49]

The 2010 cargo planes bomb plot was discovered on October 29, 2010, when two packages containing bombs found on cargo aircraft, based on intelligence received from government intelligence agencies, in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. The packages originated from Yemen, and were addressed to outdated addresses of two Jewish institutions in Chicago, Illinois, one of which was the Congregation Or Chadash, a LGBT synagogue. [50] On October 30, 2010, On November 5, 2010, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took responsibility for the plot. [51] It posted its acceptance of responsibility on a number of radical Islamist websites monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group and the Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation, and wrote:

We will continue to strike blows against American interests and the interest of America's allies.

It also claimed responsibility for the crash of a UPS Boeing 747-400 cargo plane in Dubai on September 3. The statement continued:

...since both operations were successful, we intend to spread the idea to our mujahedeen brothers in the world and enlarge the circle of its application to include civilian aircraft in the West as well as cargo aircraft. [51] [52] [53] [54]

American authorities had said they believed that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the plot. [50] Officials in the United Kingdom and the United States believe that it is most likely that the bombs were designed to destroy the planes carrying them. [55]

In November 2010, the group announced a strategy, called "Operation Hemorrhage", which it said was designed to capitalize on the "security phobia that is sweeping America." The program would call for a large number of inexpensive, small-scale attacks against United States interests, with the intent of weakening the U.S. economy. [56]


AQAP guards standing out of one of their buildings. AQAP guards outside of a building.jpg
AQAP guards standing out of one of their buildings.

On 21 May 2012, a soldier wearing a belt of explosives carried out a suicide attack on military personnel preparing for a parade rehearsal for Yemen's Unity Day. With over 120 people dead and 200 more injured, the attack was the deadliest in Yemeni history. [57] AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack. [58]

During the June 2012 al Qaeda retreat from key southern Yemen stronghold, the organization planted land mines, which killed 73 civilians. [59] According to the governor's office in Abyan province, 3,000 mines were removed from around Zinjibar and Jaar. [59]


On 5 December 2013, an attack on the Yemeni Defense Ministry in Sana'a involving a series of bomb and gun attacks killed at least 56 people. [60] After footage of the attack was aired on Yemeni television, showing an attack on a hospital within the ministry compound and the killing of medical personnel and patients, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a video message apologizing. Qasim al-Raymi claimed that the team of attackers were directed not to assault the hospital in the attack, but that one had gone ahead and done so. [61]


On 9 May 2014, several soldiers from Yemen were killed after a skirmish sparked when a vehicle attacked a palace gate. [62]

The group also publishes the online magazines Voice of Jihad and Inspire .[ citation needed ]

In New Zealand it is listed as a terror group. [63]

In December 2014, the group released a video depicting Luke Somers, a journalist whom they were holding hostage. [64] On 26 November, U.S. Navy SEALs and Yemeni special forces attempted a hostage rescue where eight hostages, none American, were freed, but Luke Somers and four others had been moved to another location by AQAP prior to the raid. The nationalities of the eight hostages rescued were six Yemenis, one Saudi, and one Ethiopian. On 6 December, 40 SEALs used V-22 Ospreys to land a distance from the compound where Somers and Korkie were kept at about 1 a.m. local time, according to a senior defense official. An AQAP fighter apparently spotted them while relieving himself outside, a counter-terrorism official with knowledge of the operation told ABC News, beginning a firefight that lasted about 10 minutes. According to CBS News, dog barking could have alerted the hostage takers of the operation. When the American soldiers finally entered the building where Somers and Korkie were kept, they found both men alive, but gravely wounded. Korkie and Somers died some minutes later despite attempts to save them.


On 7 January 2015, Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi attacked French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo , resulting in 11 French citizens killed and another 11 injured. The French-born brothers of Algerian descent stated they were members of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, to an eyewitness. [65] On 9 January, AQAP confirmed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo shooting in a speech from top Shariah cleric Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari. The reason given was to gain "revenge for the honor" of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. [66]



On 2 April 2015, AQAP fighters stormed the coastal city of Mukalla, capturing it on the 16th of April after the two-week Battle of Mukalla. They seized government buildings and used trucks to cart off more than $120 million from the central bank, according to the bank’s director. AQAP forces soon passed control to a civilian council, giving it a budget of more than $4 million to provide services to residents of the city. AQAP maintained a police station in the city to mediate Sharia disputes, but avoided imposing its rule across the city. AQAP refrained from using its name, instead using the name the 'Sons of Hadhramaut' to emphasize its ties to the surrounding province. [67] Mukalla was recaptured by the Saudi-led coalition on 25 April 2016.


Remarks of Algeria atrocities by France acknowledged by Emmanuel Macron was mentioned in an article in the publication Al-Masra by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. [68] [69] The French colonial rule in Algeria was mentioned. [70] [71] [72]


In August 2018, Al Jazeera reported that a Saudi Arabian-led coalition "battling Houthi rebels secured secret deals with al-Qaeda in Yemen and recruited hundreds of the group's fighters. ... Key figures in the deal-making said the United States was aware of the arrangements and held off on drone attacks against the armed group, which was created by Osama bin Laden in 1988." [73] [74] [75]


Fall of Zinjibar and Jaar

On 2 December 2015, the provincial capital of Abyan Governorate, Zinjibar, and the town of Jaʿār were captured by AQAP fighters. Like Al Mukala, AQAP forces soon passed control to a civilian council, police patrols and other public services. [76]

Southern Abyan Offensive

On 20 February 2016, AQAP seized the southern Abyan governorate, linking them with their headquarters in Mukalla. [77]

Ansar al-Sharia

AQAP fighters in Yemen. AQAP fighters, Yemen, 2014.jpg
AQAP fighters in Yemen.

In the wake of the 2011 Yemeni Revolution and the Battle of Zinjibar, an Islamist insurgent organisation called Ansar al-Sharia (Yemen) (Supporters of Islamic Law), emerged in Yemen and seized control of areas in the Abyan Governorate and surrounding governorates in southern Yemen and declared them an Islamist Al-Qaeda Emirate in Yemen. There was heavy fighting with the Yemeni security forces over the control of these territories, with Ansar al-Sharia driven out of most of their territory over 2012. [78]

In April 2011, Shaykh Abu Zubayr Adil bin Abdullah al-Abab, AQAP's chief religious figure, explained the name change as a re-branding exercise: "the name Ansar al-Sharia is what we use to introduce ourselves in areas where we work to tell people about our work and goals." [79]

On 4 October 2012, the United Nations 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the United States Department of State designated Ansar al-Sharia as an alias for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. [29] The State Department described the establishment of Ansar al-Sharia as an attempt to attract followers in areas of Yemen where AQAP had been able to establish territorial control and implement its interpretation of Sharia. [29]

U.S. drone strikes

Predator drone MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft.jpg
Predator drone

In 2010 the White House was reported to be considering using the CIA's armed MQ-1 Predator drones to fight Al-Qaeda in Yemen.[ citation needed ]

A CIA targeted killing drone strike killed Kamal Derwish, an American citizen, and a group of al-Qaida operatives (including Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi) in Yemen in November 2002. Drones became shorthand in Yemen for a weak government allowing foreign forces to have their way. [80]

On September 30, 2011, a US drone attack in Yemen resulted in the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the group's leaders, and Samir Khan, the editor of Inspire , its English-language magazine. [81] Both were US citizens. [82]

The pace of US drone attacks quickened significantly in 2012, with over 20 strikes in the first five months of the year, compared to 10 strikes during the course of 2011. [83]

Over the period 19–21 April 2014, a series of drone attacks on AQAP killed dozens of militants, and at least 3 civilians. [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] A spokesperson for the Yemeni Supreme Security Committee described the attacks, which included elements of the Yemeni army as well as US drones, as "massive and unprecedented". [89] The attacks were alleged to have targeted AQAP leadership, with a major AQAP base in Wadi al-Khayala reported to have been destroyed. [90]

From March 1 through March 8, 2017, the US conducted 45 airstrikes against AQAP, a record amount of airstrikes conducted against the group by the US in recent history. The airstrikes were reported to have killed hundreds of AQAP militants. [91] [92] The US continued its airstrikes afterward. Around 1–2 April 2017, the US carried out another 20 airstrikes, increasing the total number of airstrikes against AQAP in 2017 to 75, nearly double previously yearly record of 41 airstrikes in 2009. [93]

Senior leaders

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, former leader and founder of AQAP, was killed by a drone strike in June 2015. Nasir al-Wuhayshi.jpg
Nasir al-Wuhayshi, former leader and founder of AQAP, was killed by a drone strike in June 2015.
Nasir al-Wuhayshi   Former Emir and founder of AQAP
  • Founder and former Emir of AQAP. [1]
  • Deputy Emir and General Manager of al-Qaeda. [94] [95]
  • Killed in a drone strike in June 2015. [9] [10]
Qasim al-Raymi Emir and former military commander
  • Senior military commander in AQAP. [96] [97]
  • In 2007, he and AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi announced the emergence of al-Qaida in Yemen, AQAP’s predecessor group. [98]
  • He played an important role in recruiting the current generation of militants making up the Yemen-based AQAP. [98]
  • Succeeded Nasir al-Wuhayshi as leader of AQAP. [10]
Said Ali al-Shihri   Deputy Emir
  • Deputy Emir and highest ranking Saudi official in AQAP. [99]
  • Was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay until released to Saudi Arabia in November 2007. [100]
  • Killed in a drone strike in 2013. [101]
Jalal Bala'idi   Operational commander
  • Senior military commander in AQAP.
  • He played an important role during the AQAP battles in the Abyan province.
  • Succeeded by his brother Tawfiq Bala'idi.
  • Killed in a drone strike on February 4, 2016.
Mohamed Atiq Awayd Al Harbi Field commander
  • Was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay until released to Saudi Arabia in November 2007. [102]
  • Surrendered to Saudi authorities in Yemen in February 2009. [103]
Khalid Batarfi Senior commander
Ibrahim al-Rubaysh   Mufti
  • He was reported to be AQAP's mufti. [107]
  • Also served as a senior advisor for AQAP operational planning, and was involved in the planning of attacks. [108]
  • Detaineed at Guantanamo Bay until December 2006 when he was handed over to Saudi Arabian authorities, he subsequently escaped to Yemen. [109]
  • Killed in a drone strike in April 2015. [110]
Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi   Senior sharia official and Deputy General Manager
  • al-Ansi became an appointed Deputy General Manager of Al-Qaeda in 2010. [111]
  • al-Ansi was a senior ranking Shari'a official within AQAP.
  • He claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo shooting on behalf of AQAP. [112]
  • Killed in a drone strike in April 2015. [113]
Anwar al-Awlaki   Chief of External Operations
  • Senior recruiter and involved in organizing external operations to be conducted for AQAP. [114] [115] [116]
  • Killed in a drone strike in September 2011. [117]
Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari   Senior sharia official
  • Senior ranking Shari'a official within AQAP.
  • He rebuked the Islamic State announcement of expanding their caliphate into Yemen and renewed loyalties to al-Qaeda and its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. [26]
  • Killed in a drone strike in January 2015. [118]
Ibrahim al-Banna Chief of Security
  • Has served as AQAP's chief of security. [119]
  • He is a founding member of AQAP and provides military and security guidance to the AQAP leadership. [119]
  • He was added to the U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice list on October 19, 2014. [120] [121]
  • He appeared in a video in December 2015. [122]
Fahd al-Quso   Operational commander
  • Wanted by the United States for his involvement in the USS Cole bombing in Aden, Yemen on October 12, 2002.
  • Killed in a drone strike in May 2012.
Shawki al-Badani   Operational commander
  • Played a key role in a plan for a major attack in summer 2013 that led the United States to close 19 diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa.
  • Killed in a drone strike in November 2014.
Othman al-Ghamdi   Operational commander
  • Al-Ghamdi has been involved in raising funds for the organization’s operations and activities in Yemen. [123]
  • Al-Ghamdi appeared in a video released in May 2010, where he was identified publicly as AQAP’s operational commander. [123]
  • He was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay from April 2006 to June 2006 until he was handed over to Saudi Arabian authorities and subsequently released. [116]
  • Killed in a drone strike in Yemen in February 2015. [124]
  • Quietly removed from the U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice list in January 2016. [125]
  • In March 2016, the State Department confirmed to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism that al-Ghamdi no longer "posed a threat to U.S. persons or interests." [126]
  • AQAP confirmed al-Ghamdi's death in September 2018. [127]
Ibrahim al-Asiri Explosives expert
Ibrahim al-Qosi AQAP Shura Council member [132]
  • al-Qosi was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay from January 2002 to July 2012 until he was handed over to Sudan after serving a short sentence as part of a plea bargain.
  • He appeared in a video released in December 2015. [133]


The group has taken advantage of Yemen's "slow collapse into near-anarchy. Widespread corruption, growing poverty and internal fragmentation have helped make Yemen a breeding ground for terror." [134] More than two years later, on April 25, 2012, a suspected US drone strike killed Mohammed Said al-Umdah, a senior AQAP member cited as the number four in the organization and one of the 2006 escapees. He had been convicted of the 2002 tanker bombing and for providing logistical and material support. [135]

Yemeni analyst, Barak Barfi, discounted claims that marriage between the militant group and Yemeni tribes is a widespread practice, though he states that the bulk of AQAP members hail from the tribes. [136]

AQAP is a popular choice for radicalized Americans seeking to join Islamist terror organizations overseas. In 2013 alone, at least three American citizens or permanent residents — Marcos Alonso Zea, Justin Kaliebe, and Shelton Thomas Bell — have attempted to join AQAP. [137] They count among over 50 Americans who have attempted to join terrorist groups overseas, including AQAP, since 2007. [137]

Reportedly, as many as 20 Islamist British nationals traveled to Yemen in 2009 to be trained by AQAP. [138] In February 2012, up to 500 Internationalistas from Somalia's Al Shabaab, after getting cornered by a Kenyan offensive and conflict with Al Shabaab national legions, fled to Yemen. [139] It is likely that a number of this group merged with AQAP. The following is a list of people who have been purported to be AQAP members. Most, but not all, are or were Saudi nationals. Roughly half have appeared on Saudi "most wanted" lists. In the left column is the rank of each member in the original 2003 list of the 26 most wanted.

Yousif Saleh Fahd al-'Uyayri (or Ayyiri, etc.)يوسف صالح فهد العييريleader, writer, and webmaster, killed June 2003 in Saudi Arabia [140]
3 Khalid Ali bin Ali Hajj خالد علي بن علي حاجleader, killed in Riyadh March or April 2004 [141]
1 Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Muhsin al-Muqrin عبد العزيز عيسى عبد المحسن المقرنleader, killed in Riyadh 18 June 2004 [142] [143] [144]
5 Saleh Muhammad 'Audhuallah al-'Alawi al-Oufi صالح محمد عوض الله العلوي العوفيleader, killed 17 or 18 August 2005 in Madinah [145]
2Rakan Muhsin Mohammed al-Saikhanراكان محسن محمد الصيخانkilled 12 April 2004 in Riyadh
7 Saud Hamoud 'Abid al-Qatini al-'Otaibi سعود حمود عبيد القطيني العتيبيsenior member, one of 15 killed in a 3-day battle in Ar Rass April 2005 [146] [147]
4 Abdul Kareem Al-Majati عبد الكريم المجاطيMoroccan, killed with Saud al-Otaibi at Ar Rass, [146] was wanted in the USA under the name Karim El Mejjati
6Ibrahim Muhammad Abdullah al-Raisإبراهيم محمد عبدا لله الريسkilled 8 December 2003 in Riyadh
8 Ahmad Abdul-Rahman Saqr al-Fadhli أحمد عبدالرحمن صقر الفضليkilled 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
9 Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani alias Zubayr Al-Rimi سلطان جبران سلطان القحطانيq.v., killed 23 September 2003 in Jizan
10Abdullah Saud Al-Siba'iعبد الله سعود السباعيkilled 29 December 2004 [148]
11Faisal Abdul-Rahman Abdullah al-Dakhilفيصل عبدالرحمن عبدالله الدخيلkilled with al-Muqrin [143]
12 Faris al-Zahrani فارس آل شويل الزهرانيideologue, captured 5 August 2004 in Abha [149]
13Khalid Mobarak Habeeb-Allah al-Qurashiخالد مبارك حبيب الله القرشيkilled 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
14Mansoor Muhammad Ahmad Faqeehمنصور محمد أحمد فقيهsurrendered 30 December 2003 in Najran
15'Issa Saad Muhammad bin 'Ushanعيسى سعد محمد بن عوشنideologue, killed 20 July 2004 in Riyadh
16Talib Saud Abdullah Al Talibطالب سعود عبدالله آل طالبat large; (last of the original 26)
17Mustafa Ibrahim Muhammad Mubarakiمصطفى إبراهيم محمد مباركيkilled 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
18Abdul-Majiid Mohammed al-Mani'عبد المجيد محمد المنيعideologue, killed 12 October 2004 in Riyadh [150]
19Nasir Rashid Nasir Al-Rashidناصر راشد ناصر الراشدkilled 12 April 2004 in Riyadh
Sultan bin Bajad Al-Otaibiسلطان بن بجاد العتيبيspokesman [151] and writer for al-Qaeda, killed 28 or 29 December 2004 [152]
20Bandar Abdul-Rahman Abdullah al-Dakhilبندر عبدالرحمن عبدالله الدخيلkilled December 2004 [152]
21 Othman Hadi Al Maqboul Almardy al-'Amari عثمان هادي آل مقبول العمريrecanted, under an amnesty deal, 28 June 2004 in Namas [153] [154]
22Talal A'nbar Ahmad 'Anbariطلال عنبر أحمد عنبريkilled 22 April 2004 in Jeddah
23'Amir Muhsin Moreef Al Zaidan Al-Shihriعامر محسن مريف آل زيدان الشهريkilled 6 November 2003 in Riyadh [155]
24 Abdullah Muhammad Rashid al-Rashoud عبد الله محمد راشد الرشودq.v., ideologue, killed May or June 2005 in Iraq
25 Abdulrahman Mohammad Mohammad Yazji عبدالرحمن محمد محمد يازجيkilled 6 April 2005 [148]
26Hosain Mohammad Alhasakiحسين محمد الحسكيMoroccan, held in Belgium [148]
Turki N. M. al-Dandaniتركي ناصر مشعل الدندنيcell leader, a former # 1 most wanted, [156] died by suicide July 2003 in al-Jawf [157]
Ibrahim bin Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad al-Muzainiإبراهيم بن عبد العزيز بن محمد المزينkilled with Khalid Ali Hajj [141]
Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Jubran al-Yazjiعبدالكريم محمد جبران اليازجيkilled 2 June 2004 in Ta'if [158]
Mohammed Othman Abdullah al-Waleedi al-Shuhriمحمد عثمان عبدالله الوليدي الشهري [156]
Mansour Faqeehمنصور فقيهsurrendered [159]
Hamid Fahd Abdullah al-Salmi al-Shamriحمد فهد عبدالله الأسلمي الشمري [156]
Ahmad Nasser Abdullah al-Dakhilأحمد ناصر عبدالله الدخيل [156] (dead)
Turki bin Fuheid al-Mutairi a/k/a Fawaz al-Nashimiتركي بن فيهد المطيريkilled with al-Muqrin [143]
Jubran Ali Hakmiجبران علي حكمي [160]
Hani Said Ahmed Abdul-Karim al-Ghamdiهاني سعيد أحمد عبد الكريم الغامدي [160]
Ali Abdul-Rahman al-Ghamdiعلي عبد الرحمن الغامديsurrendered 26 June 2003 [161]
Bandar bin Abdul-Rahman al-Ghamdiبندر عبد الرحمن الغامديcaptured September 2003 in Yemen [162] and extradited to KSA
Fawaz Yahya al-Rabi'i فواز يحيى الربيعيq.v., killed 1 October 2006 in Yemen
Abdul-Rahman Mansur Jabarahعبدالرحمن منصور جبارة"Canadian-Kuwaiti of Iraqi origin", [156] dead according to al-Qaeda; brother of Kuwaiti-Canadian Mohamed Mansour Jabarah
Adnan bin Abdullah al-Omaricaptured somewhere outside KSA, extradited to KSA November 2005 [163]
Abdul-Rahman al-Mutibkilled in al Qasim December 2005 [164]
Muhammad bin Abdul-Rahman al-Suwailmi, alias Abu Mus'ab al-Najdiمحمد بن عبد الرحمن السويلميkilled in al Qasim December 2005 [164]
According to Saudi authorities, [165] these 12 died or were killed while committing the Riyadh compound bombings on 12 May 2003. Several were previously wanted.
Khaled Mohammad Muslim Al-Juhani خالد محمد مسلم الجهنيleader of this group
Abdul-Karim Mohammed Jubran Yazjiعبد الكريم محمد جبران اليازجي
Mohammed Othman Abdullah Al-Walidi Al-Shehriومحمد عثمان عبد الله الوليدي الشهري
Hani Saeed Ahmad Al Abdul-Karim Al-Ghamdiهاني سعيد أحمد عبد الكريم الغامدي
Jubran Ali Ahmad Hakami Khabraniجبران علي أحمد حكمي خبراني
Khaled bin Ibrahim Mahmoudخالد بن إبراهيم محمودcalled "Baghdadi"
Mehmas bin Mohammed Mehmas Al-Hawashleh Al-Dosariمحماس بن محمد محماس الهواشلة الدوسري
Mohammed bin Shadhaf Ali Al-Mahzoum Al-Shehriمحمد بن شظاف علي آل محزوم الشهري
Hazem Mohammed Saeedحازم محمد سعيدcalled "Kashmiri"
Majed Abdullah Sa'ad bin Okailماجد عبدالله سعد بن عكيل
Bandar bin Abdul-Rahman Menawer Al-Rahimi Al-Mutairiبندر بن عبد الرحمن منور الرحيمي المطيري
Abdullah Farres bin Jufain Al-Rahimi Al-Mutairiعبدالله فارس بن جفين الرحيمي المطيري
Abdullah Hassan Al Aseery عبد الله حسن عسيريDied trying to assassinate a Saudi prince in October 2009.
The following five were reported killed in Dammam in early September 2005. [166]
Zaid Saad Zaid al-Samaria former most wanted, killed by Saudi forces in 2005 [167]
Saleh Mansour Mohsen al-Fereidi al-Harbi
Sultan Saleh Hussan al-Haseri
Naif Farhan Jalal al-Jehaishi al-Shammari
Mohammed Abdul-Rahman Mohammed al-Suwailmi
Abu Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi Former Guantanamo captive who appeared in threatening YouTube video in January 2009, and who voluntarily turned himself in to Saudi authorities a month later. [168]
Abu Abdurrahman - al Faranghi [169] A convert—allegedly trained as a bombmaker [170] —hunted by CIA, MI5 and Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, since 2012. (His legal name in Norway has not been revealed by media.)

See also

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Further reading