By B Raman
December 31 2009
The recent attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airline, which was part of a wider conspiracy orchestrated from Yemen, clearly shows that the Obama Administration now faces a two-front war against Al Qaeda: One in the AfPak region and the other in the Yemen-Saudi axis
According to the NEFA Foundation of the US, a non-Governmental organisation created following 9/11 to track Islamic terrorism, Al Qaeda's network in Yemen has issued an official communiqué claiming responsibility for the failed terrorist bomb plot targeting a Delta/Northwest airliner travelling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. The communiqué included original photographs of would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab grinning in front of an Al Qaeda banner. The group acknowledged that the device had failed to properly detonate, but promised that it would "continue on this path until we achieve success." The statement also congratulated Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan and urged fellow Muslims to follow his footsteps and kill American soldiers.
According to the same foundation, Al Qaeda's network in Yemen has issued an official response to the airstrike earlier this week on a suspected Al Qaeda gathering in the region of Shabwah that reportedly killed up to 30 people, including a number of senior Al Qaeda operatives.
The group threatened that it would not allow "the slaughter of Muslim women and children to pass without taking vengeance for them, Allah willing. We call upon all Yemeni tribes... and the people of the Arabian Peninsula to confront the crusaders and their clients in the Arabian Peninsula by attacking military bases, embassies, intelligence agents, and naval fleets occupying the waters of the Arabian Peninsula."
There is so far no reason to doubt the authenticity of these claims which show that the attempt to blow up a plane of the North-West Airlines on December 25 as it was approaching to land at Detroit was part of a wider conspiracy of Al Qaeda orchestrated from Yemen and not the isolated act of an individual as sought to be made out by some officials of the Obama Administration. They also show that the massacre of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas by Maj Nidal Malik Hasan of the US Army on November 6 was an act of Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism and not an act of irrational anger of a Muslim serving in the Army.
The Obama Administration now i faces a two-front war against Al Qaeda: One in the AfPak region and the other t in the Yemen-Saudi axis. Its success or b failure in this `war' will determine the A security of Americans in their homeland A in the months to come. These develop- b ments clearly show that US President c Barack Obama's overtures to the Arabs 2 through his Cairo address earlier this year A and his marking his distance from the Israeli Government and the Jewish peo- b ple since coming to office on January 20 a have had no impact on Al Qaeda, which r is as determined as ever to make the i Americans bleed. It is to be hoped that A these developments will mark the begin- t ning of the end of Mr Obama's illusions o relating to how to counter jihadi terror- 2 ism. There is no soft option in dealing with Al Qaeda and its associates whether n the AfPak region or in other areas.
Al Qaeda's jihad against the US stared in 1992 in Yemen, from where Osama in Laden's father had migrated to Saudi rabia. That year, suspected members of l Qaeda bombed a hotel in Aden used y US troops going to Somalia, killing two ivilians. This was followed by the October 000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off den that killed 17 US sailors.
In 2007, remnants of the Saudi ranch of Al Qaeda, who had survived an nti-Al Qaeda offensive by the Saudi secu ity forces in the wake of the post-2004 ncidents involving Al Qaeda in Saudi rabia, fled into Yemen and took sanc uary there just as Osama bin Laden and ther remnants of Al Qaeda had fled in 002 from Afghanistan into North Waziristan of Pakistan and took sanctuary there. This was followed by a car bomb attack on Spanish tourists killing eight of them and the assassination of two Belgians. During 2008, there was a failed mortar attack on the US Embassy in Sana'a. Later, 17 Yemenis, including seven terrorists, died in a twin car-explosion near the US Embassy.
Like the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Yemen, with its mountainous terrain dotted with caves and other natural hide-outs, provides an ideal shelter and launching pad for Al Qaeda. The widespread poverty and the lack of facilities for modern education drive a large number of youth into the arms of Al Qaeda. It has nearly 4,000 madarsas, which are the breeding ground of fundamentalist ideological beliefs.
Yemen had contributed a large number of volunteers for jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many of them returned to Yemen after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. Some of them were rehabilitated by being recruited to the police and the security forces. Others took to a new jihad -- this time against the US and Israel. Those rehabilitated in the security forces and those, who had joined Al Qaeda, remained in contact with each other having fought shoulder to shoulder against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
In January Al Qaeda announced the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the organisation under the leadership of Yemeni Nasir al-Wahishi, with a Saudi Said Ali al-Shihri, as his No 2 alShihri used to be detained by the US in its detention centre at the Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The group called itself Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In March a suicide bomber killed four South Korean tourists near the eastern town of Shibam. Another then targeted a convoy of South Korean security officials and the families of the victims while they were on their way to the airport of Sana'a.
On March 28 our policemen died in clashes with persons believed to be from Al Qaeda in the south of the country.
Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi, who is in charge of security and defence, told his Parliament on March 23 that he suspected that Al Qaeda had managed to infiltrate the Yemeni security services. The suspicion that it had penetrated the security services was strengthened by the precision attack of Al Qaeda on the South Korean convoy to the airport. It was apparently aware of the proposed route of the convoy and the time at which it would be moving to the airport.
The merger of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda and the activities of the AQAP rang the alarm bell in the US and Saudi Arabia.
The concerns for the US authorities would be the possibility that Major Hasan and Abdulmutallab could be the tips of an Al Qaeda iceberg and that unless they identify the rest of the iceberg and neutralise it, they cannot be certain of the security of their homeland.
Source: The pioneer, New Delhi
The writer is a former top official of R&AW. His book, Mumbai 26/11, has just been published.
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