From Yemen to Africa, al-Qaeda's latest comeback is underway
Assassination of Osama bin Laden and regular drone attacks have done nothing
to halt the rise of a third generation al-Qaeda
Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:24 ON Wed 23 May 2012
THE BOMBING of a practice parade of soldiers
zens-attack-yemen-army> in Yemen this week is one of the most deadly
al-Qaeda attacks for years. The bomber in Yemeni military uniform placed
himself expertly in just the right place to cause maximum damage - at least
90 soldiers killed and up to 300 injured.
Yemen is now a battleground between the authorities of the new president
Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, backed by the CIA on the ground and in the air, and
al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP.
In the Syrian insurgency, al-Qaeda is held responsible for the wave of
bombings and the organisation is reported to be spearheading some of the
most militant Sunni groups. The contagion is spreading to neighbouring
Lebanon, unsurprisingly, where Sunni groups fought open battles at the
A new development comes in the form of a video just released by the US
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs purporting to
be of an al-Qaeda militant urging the faithful to wage "a cyber jihad"
against the US domestic infrastructure.
The six-minute video was made last year, and according to the committee's
chairman Senator Joe Lieberman, "is the clearest evidence we have seen that
al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups want to attack the cyber system of our
All this goes against the narrative which has been running since Osama bin
Laden was killed by a Seals commando raid on his compound at Abbottabad in
Pakistan on 2 May last year. This version of events holds that the
assassination was a deadly blow to the already frail leadership of al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden's appointed successor Ayman al-Zawahiri is not a patch on his
predecessor in grit and charisma, and the whole movement today is a mixture
of fable, fantasy and a lot of wishful thinking.
This narrative, of course, greatly helps the re-election campaign of
President Obama, particularly as he pushes for an accelerated wind down of
American and international forces in Afghanistan.
But this is beginning to look like dangerous spin - as the al-Qaeda
franchise, now in its third generation, is vigorously alive and spreading
its spoors into the Caucasus, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as
From Yemen this month we have had the revelation from CIA and Saudi sources
of the foiling of another
ar-bomb-spy-exposed-british> underpants bombing plot. A suicide bomber was
expected to use a charge many times more powerful than that discovered in
the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate his
bomb in a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. Only this time the
bomber was a British-born double agent. The fact that the CIA and their
Saudi pals blurted this to the media has not endeared them to their allies
In Africa, the al-Shabaab militants of Somalia have joined the al-Qaeda
franchise. Other recent allies are the Tuareg nationalist militants in Mali
and Boko Haram in Nigeria. More worrying is the resurgence of al-Qaeda in
the Maghreb, which has a strong foothold in the Rif in Morocco and is active
in the highlands of Algeria. They provide the deep sanctuary and operational
mounting base for terrorist attacks targeted on Western Europe.
The main tool used by the CIA is the Predator and other more lethal drones.
These are used continuously in Yemen and the tribal areas of the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Earlier this month the Yemeni authorities
claimed a drone strike had killed Fahd Mohammed al-Quso, who was on the
FBI's Most Wanted terrorist list for the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole
in the outer harbour at Aden in October 2000. The suicide attack by dinghy
killed 17 sailors and nearly sank one of the most modern US warships.
The CIA believes its drone attacks in the tribal areas are reducing
al-Qaeda. Others aren't so sure. Last weekend a Taliban spokesman said the
militant group would guarantee no foreign fighters, such as al-Qaeda, would
be tolerated again in Afghanistan, should they negotiate their way back to
But David Cameron was given a less reassuring assessment in an intelligence
briefing at the Nato summit in Chicago last weekend. If chaos ensured a
rapid Nato draw down from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda was likely to return to
their old training grounds there. .
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Received on Wed May 23 2012 - 08:07:05 EDT