US Africa Command continues to describe airstrikes launched during offensive operations against al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia as “self-defense strikes.”
The Taliban has good reason to deny involvement in this attack, as it has used the UAE to fundraise and gather support for jihadists based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The State Department has designated Ibrahim al Banna as a terrorist. Al Banna has served as an al Qaeda official in Yemen since the 1990s. He originally joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and has been one of Ayman al Zawahiri’s loyalists for decades.
The Pentagon is still assessing the results of airstrikes on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 in northern Syria, but it is believed that 20 al Qaeda “militants” were killed in the bombings. The airstrikes are likely among the most significant carried out against al Qaeda in Syria since Sept. 2014. President Obama reportedly authorized a more robust air campaign against al Qaeda in Syria late last year, after the administration had previously defined down the threat.
The State Department announced today that Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza, has been added to the US government’s list of designated terrorists. Al Qaeda has released several messages from Hamza since Aug. 2015. He has threatened the West, said that all Muslims should support the jihad in Syria, and called for the Saudi government to be overthrown.
Russia is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban, arguing that the jihadist group should be considered a bulwark against the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan. But the Taliban is a bigger threat to Afghan security than Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men, the organization remains closely allied with al Qaeda and its own extremism should not be downplayed.
The US has now launched 37 airstrikes against AQAP in 2016, the largest yearly total since 2012 (41 strikes).
The US military announced the deaths of Bilal al Utabyi, al Qaeda’s deputy leader for eastern Afghanistan, and Wahid al-Junabi, a senior al Qaeda explosives expert. Both were killed on Oct. 23 in the airstrike that also killed Faruq al Qahtani, al Qaeda emir for eastern Afghanistan.