Founder of AQAP's media arm killed in clash in Yemen
Abu Hammam Qahtani, image from the martyrdom statement that announced his death.
A senior Saudi al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula propagandist who founded the terror group's media arm has been killed during fighting with Yemeni security forces.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced the death of Nayef bin Mohammed bin Said al Kudri Qahtani, who is better known as Abu Hammam Qahtani, in a statement released on jihadist websites. The martyrdom statement, authored by AQAP operative Abu Khalid al Asiri, did not disclose the date and location of Qahtani's death.
Qahtani is the sixth person listed on Saudi Arabia's roster of 85 most-wanted terrorists. The list, which was released in February 2009, said Qahtani "planned assassinations, targeted oil facilities in Saudi, [is] linked to al-Qaeda in Yemen, [and] financed terrorist operations in Spain."
In early 2007, Qahtani traveled from Saudi Arabia to Yemen and joined al Qaeda in Yemen at a training camp in the "Valley of the Abu Jabara" in Sa'ada province. Once there, he was sheltered by the Waili tribe along with other Yemeni and Saudi al Qaeda operatives.
At the camp, Qahtani trained on "light and medium weapons, explosives and heavy [sic], and some martial arts." He also received training in jihadist propaganda.
After training, Qahtani aided in the July 8, 2007 suicide attack in Marib province that killed eight Spanish tourists. His participation in the attack "was a good omen for him, and a good start to his career," Asiri said.
Qahtani then shifted his efforts from military operations to bolstering al Qaeda in Yemen's propaganda efforts, joining "a group of brothers who specialize in the field of jihadist media."
Qahtani founded Sada al Malahim, or the Echoes of Epics, al Qaeda in Yemen's magazine. Afterward, he built the Malahim Media Foundation, or Epics Foundation, al Qaeda in Yemen's main propaganda outlet, which distributes tapes and other jihadist media. The Malahim Media Foundation remained the top jihadist media arm in the region once al Qaeda in Yemen merged with the Saudi al Qaeda branch and formed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Malahim Media Foundation is responsible for publishing and distributing Inspire, AQAP's English-language magazine. Anwar al Awlaki, a top AQAP ideologue who has inspired multiple terror attacks against the US, is featured in the latest issue of the magazine.
Qahtani "decided to move to the military sphere" at an undisclosed time, and "trained a large number of the brethren, and set up camp with his fellow martyr Abu Khair Al Asiri."
Background on AQAP in Yemen
Yemen has become one of al Qaeda's most secure bases as well as a hub for activities on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Horn of Africa.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen and carries out attacks against the Saudi government from there. The group is known to operate terror camps in Aden, Marib, Abyan, Sa'ada, and in the Alehimp and Sanhan regions in Sana'a. It has conducted attacks on oil facilities, tourists, the Yemeni security forces, and the US and British embassies in Sana'a.
The terror group has also been instrumental in supporting al Qaeda's operations in Somalia, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Yemen serves as a command and control center, a logistics hub, a transit point from Asia and the Peninsula, and a source of weapons and munitions for the al Qaeda-backed Shabaab.
Within the past two years, two terror attacks directed at the US have been traced back to Yemen: the murder of 13 soldiers at a deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009, by a Muslim US Army major; and the attempted bombing of an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 by a Nigerian trained in Yemen. Both attacks were inspired by Awlaki, a US citizen who has been designated as a terrorist for supporting terror activities. Awlaki is currently sheltering in Yemen.
"Yemen is Pakistan in the heart of the Arab world," an intelligence official told The Long War Journal in 2009. "You have military and government collusion with al Qaeda, peace agreements, budding terror camps, and the export of jihad to neighboring countries."