Yemeni airstrike hits al Qaeda camp

Map of Yemen. Click to view.

The Yemeni military claims to have killed two al Qaeda commanders during an airstrike in the South. Yemeni strike aircraft targeted an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula camp in the Qashabir region in the southern province of Abyan.

The Yemeni Defense Ministry claimed two al Qaeda commanders plotting to carry out attacks “against vital installations” inside Yemen were killed in the strike. Jamil Nasser Abdullah al Ambari, an al Qaeda leader on southern Abyan, was one of the two commanders killed, according to AFP.

A Yemeni anti-terror team has been sent to the attack site to retrieve DNA and confirm the kills, Xinhua reported. The US is known to have special operations forces and intelligence assets on the ground in Yemen to aid in the fight against the terror group.

Abyan province is a known al Qaeda haven. The terror group opened a large training camp in Abyan late last year, which reportedly housed more than 400 al Qaeda fighters from the Middle East [see LWJ report, “Al Qaeda opens new training camp in Yemen“]. Many of the fighters were Yemenis, Saudis, and Somalis.

In the past, the Yemeni government has erroneously claimed to have killed various top commanders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including Nasir al Wuhayshi, the group’s leader; Qasim al Raymi, the overall military commander; and Ayed al Shabwani, the leader in Marib province. The government has also mistakenly claimed to have captured Said Ali al Shihri, the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Over the weekend, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula did admit that a top financier and military commander was killed by Yemeni security forces. Ibrahim Saleh Mujahid al Khalifa, a Saudi national who is also known as Abi Jandal al Qisaimy, was killed while leading a attack on a Yemeni checkpoint in the South.

“Al Qisaimy was responsible for collecting and raising money from inside Saudi Arabia and transferring them into al Qaeda wing in Yemen,” according to a statement released on the Internet by the Al Malahim Media Foundation, the media arm of the terror group. “Al Qisaimy was also the coordinator behind smuggling groups of wanted Saudi militants to Yemen through the Saudi-Yemeni joint border.”

In mid-December 2009, Yemen began to exert pressure on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after the US and Britain began voicing concerns over the terror group’s ability to sponsor attacks in Saudi Arabia and the West. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been establishing training camps, and it has supported Al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia. Two recent attacks on the US – the Christmas Eve airliner plot, and the shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas – have been traced back to Yemen. Authorities now believe more plots are being hatched in Yemen.

Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a top al Qaeda commander and a rising star in the organization. He is a chief target of the airstrikes. Wuhayshi served as Osama bin Laden’s aide-de-camp and was one of 23 al Qaeda operatives to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. He is considered to be a prime contender to take command of the global terror network if al Qaeda’s central leadership based in Pakistan is decapitated in Pakistan, a senior US military intelligence official who closely tracks al Qaeda’s network told The Long War Journal.

Since mid-December 2009, there have been five airstrikes against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders. The Yemeni government claims it is carrying out the attacks, but the US is known to have conducted the first strike, on Dec. 17. US officials claim the US is only providing intelligence and military support for the strikes.

Airstrikes in Yemen targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Yemeni airstrike hits al Qaeda camp

Mar. 14, 2010

Airstrikes target home of Yemeni al Qaeda leader

Jan. 20, 2010

Al Qaeda’s military commander in Yemen reported killed

Jan. 15, 2010

Yemeni airstrike targets top al Qaeda leaders

Dec. 24, 2009

US launches cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen

Dec. 17, 2009

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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