Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula

Background

  • Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is an Islamist extremist organization based in Yemen. It is al-Qa’ida’s most active global affiliate.
     
  • Three separate AQAP plots to blow up airliners over the United States failed in 2009, 2010, and 2012. The chief architect of these plans, bomb-maker 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 commanders have not affected AQAP’s operational tempo. Its current 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. 

Threat to New Jersey: Moderate

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 17th issue in August 2017, which focused on train derailments. 

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  • In April 2017, AQAP released its fifth Inspire Guide—a series of shorter, tactical publications—highlighting the attacks on the British Parliament building in London and praising attacks on those affiliated with “the doomed American coalition.” 
     
  • AQAP continues to influence the global English-speaking jihadist community through its Inspire Guide and the first Inspire Address from al-Rimi, which allow the group to encourage and provide guidance for future operations.

United States Nexus

Messaging from deceased AQAP leader Anwar al-Aulaqi continues to resonate with jihadists. Since 2011, Aulaqi has been named in over 20 terrorism cases in the United States.  

  • In January 2017, the 8-year-old daughter of US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi was killed when US forces raided an AQAP-controlled area in a remote desert region of Yemen. AQAP has since leveraged this operation to spread anti-American rhetoric and motivate supporters in the West.

  • Aulaqi is credited with inspiring Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who killed three and wounded 264 at the Boston Marathon in April 2013, as well as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who killed 14 and wounded 22 in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015. 

  • In March 2017, AQAP supporters recirculated an issue of Inspire, which focused on targeting US aviation and provided “field tactics,” such as the best place to detonate an explosive while on an airliner and instructions for assembling bombs capable of evading airport security measures.


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