Yemeni media reported yesterday that the country’s military is preparing for a new offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the heels of the three successful US drone strikes last week that killed over 60 militants from the terrorist organization. Yemeni Popular Committees, local armed resistance groups who played a large role alongside the military in pushing out al Qaeda and its local affiliate Ansar al Shariah from Abyan province in 2011, claimed yesterday that this new offensive comes in response to information they received suggesting an AQAP attempt to filter into Lawdar district in Abyan and seize control of it.
Abu Firas al Suri, a senior al Qaeda operative, was sent to Syria from Yemen in 2013. According to the Al Nusrah Front, Al Suri served as an “envoy” for Osama bin Laden and helped establish Lashkar-e-Taiba. The picture above is from an Al Nusrah Front video
A recently released video produced by the Al Nusrah Front features Abu Firas al Suri, an al Qaeda veteran who has waged jihad since the late 1970s. In his video debut, al Suri criticizes the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), a jihadist group that has been disowned by al Qaeda’s senior leadership. The Al Nusrah Front is al Qaeda’s official branch inside Syria and has been openly fighting ISIS both online and on the ground.
Abu Firas is one of the senior al Qaeda officials who was entrusted to mediate the dispute, but those efforts have failed.
“I was not intending to talk about the State (ISIS) and about its crimes against the Islamic ummah and against Islam,” Abu Firas says in the video, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. However, an ISIS leader known as Abu Muhammad al Adnani recently accused Abu Abdallah al Shami, a Nusrah Front official, of “lying and slander.” Al Adnani also called for Allah to curse the lying party in the dispute, by which al Adnani meant the Al Nusrah Front.
Abu Firas says that al Adani’s speech, which was widely disseminated online, was “devastating” and therefore he had to respond.
Shortly before Abu Khalid al Suri (whose real name was Mohamed Bahaiah) was killed, Abu Firas says the two met. Abu Khalid claimed to have received prior warnings about an impending attack on him by ISIS. “They put me on the black list and they want to assassinate me,” Abu Khalid said, according to Abu Firas’ account.
Abu Firas claims he warned Abu Khalid to take special precautions, but the attack was successful the day after they met, on Feb. 23.
Abu Khalid al Suri worked with Abu Firas to end the disagreement between ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front. But all he did was earn ISIS’ enmity.
Another senior al Qaeda official in Syria, a Saudi known as Sanafi al Nasr, has made similar claims on his Twitter feed. Nasr has claimed that Abu Khalid al Suri warned him about ISIS’ threats just two weeks prior to the suicide bombing. [See LWJ report, Head of al Qaeda ‘Victory Committee’ in Syria.]
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula executed one of its members at dawn today. Yemeni media sources reported that an unidentified man was found dead this morning, his body hanging on a pole in a soccer field in the coastal city of Al Shajar in Hadramout province. Arabic-language news reports confirmed that the man was shot in the head before being hanged for all to see. The Yemeni media said the location where the corpse was found was the site of an American drone strike on Dec. 24, 2013 that killed five Yemenis.
The man was apparently killed because it was suspected that he was working with the Americans. An al Qaeda flag and black banners were found beside his body reading, “American Spy in the Arabian Peninsula,” and “Whoever fights with the government or cooperates with it is not a Yemeni, not a Hadrami, but a traitor.” Another banner read, “Guider of American planes to kill Muslims.”
Arabic reports also claimed that AQAP sources alleged that the man had planted microphones in AQAP vehicles and meeting places in order to guide American drone missiles. Additionally, AQAP operatives have reportedly disseminated flyers to locals in al Shajar warning that the “punishment” meted out to the man will be the fate of anyone who cooperates with the Americans.
This execution comes on the heels of the latest American drone strike in Yemen, on March 5, in which al Qaeda commander Ali Juraym was killed [see LWJ report, US drones kill al Qaeda operative who fought in Iraq]. Photograph & video of man executed by AQAP [Warning: graphic]
Today the US launched the second drone strike in Yemen in three days. The strike, which took place in northern Yemen, killed a jihadist who fought in Iraq.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a vehicle as it traveled in the Khalka area of Al Jawf province province. Four “militants,” including a local commander known as Ali Juraym, were killed in the strike.
Yemeni news sources claim that Ali Juraym, whose full name is Ali Saleh Juraym Al Olyan, was an al Qaeda commander known to have returned from Iraq. Al Olyan was reportedly from the Al Sayda tribe hailing from the Al Jawf province in northern Yemen. Yemeni tribal sources said that they could not identify the other AQAP fighters who were killed with Al Olyan due to the severity of their injuries. They also confirmed that al Qaeda operatives arrived at the scene shortly after the drone strike to collect the militants’ remains.
On Feb. 16, Yemeni security services foiled an attempted attack on an oil refinery in the southern port city of Aden and arrested 27 suspected al Qaeda operatives from Abyan province involved in the plot.
The website of the Yemeni Ministry of Defense reported that authorities arrested six armed operatives on their way to carry out the attack in Aden. The operatives were apprehended after passing through a security checkpoint in the vicinity of Bureiqa. Yemeni sources claimed that the suspects had “modern and sophisticated” weapons in their possession.