Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

  • Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is an Islamic extremist organization based in Yemen. It is al-Qa’ida’s most active global affiliate.
  • In 2009, 2010, and 2012, AQAP plotted to blow up airliners over the United States. The chief architect of these plans, bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri, remains in Yemen. Asiri has trained other AQAP operatives to build new non-metallic explosives that can evade airport security detection.
  • The deaths of AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahishi and other top leaders have not affected AQAP’s operational tempo. Its new chief, Qasim al-Rimi, continues to direct attacks against the Iranian-backed Shia Huthis, and AQAP has acquired new weaponry and support from sympathetic Sunni tribes across Yemen.


AQAP has demonstrated the intent and capability to act outside its primary area of operations in Yemen and has attempted to strike the United States on three occasions since 2009. AQAP continues to hone media outreach efforts and propaganda through its online English-language magazine, Inspire, publishing its 16th issue in November 2016, which focused on the recent attacks in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota. 

  • AQAP continues to influence the global English-speaking jihadist community through its new Inspire Guides, which allow the group to take credit for attacks and provide guidance for future operations.
  • Since June 2016, AQAP has published four Inspire Guides, reintroducing tactical information from longer articles in Inspire. These shorter publications allow the rapid dissemination of AQAP’s messages following global attacks.


Messaging from deceased AQAP leader Anwar al-Aulaqi continues to resonate with jihadists. Since 2009, Aulaqi has been named as an inspirational figure in roughly two dozen attacks and plots in the United States. 

  • At the time of his arrest in September 2016, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, accused of attacks in New Jersey and New York, was found with a journal praising Aulaqi.
  • In December 2016, Abdul Artan posted a statement on Facebook praising Aulaqi as “our hero” before driving his vehicle through a crowd at Ohio State University and striking students with a knife, injuring 11.
  • Aulaqi is credited with inspiring Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who killed three and wounded 264 at the Boston Marathon in 2013, as well as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who killed 14 and wounded 22 in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015.

Additional Resources

Anwar al-Aulaqi: Inspiring Jihadists Five Years After His Death

AQAP: Publishing New Inspire Guides

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.