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May 27, 2010 | 20:12 GMT

Yemen: A New al Qaeda Video

Al-Malahim, the media branch of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — the Yemen-based regional node of al Qaeda — released a new video May 26 alongside the 13th edition of its publication, Echo of Battle. Entitled "America, The Last Trap," the video includes a lengthy statement from AQAP military commander Qasim al-Raymi. The well-produced, approximately one-hour video includes familiar faces along with less known individuals. One such newcomer, Fahd al-Quso — wanted in connected with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole — threatened attacks against the continental United States, its embassy in Yemen and warships in the surrounding waters. This is the first unequivocal evidence of links between AQAP and the wanted militant, though his exact connection with the group is unclear. The imprisoned militant Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to destroy a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009, appeared in a clip speaking about jihad and the West and training in the Yemeni desert. The video also eulogized Muhammad Umayr al-Awlaqi, well-known for an appearance on Al Jazeera threatening the United States in front of a large crowd, who died in a December 2009 airstrike against his hideout in Abyan. It also confirmed the deaths of Abdallah al-Mihdar, head of AQAP in the Shabwah governorate, who died in clashes with security forces in January, and the Afghan veteran Mohammad Saleh al-Kazimi, who also died in the 2009 Abyan strike and whose corpse was shown on the video. Appearing for the first time was former Guantanamo Bay inmate No. 184 and current No. 85 on the Saudi most-wanted list, Othman Ahmad Othman al-Ghamdi. The 31-year-old Saudi-born militant fought in Afghanistan, where coalition authorities arrested him in April 2006. After four years at Guantanamo, al-Ghamdi was sent back to his homeland where he eventually enrolled in, and graduated from, Saudi Arabia's rehabilitation program. Shortly after his release, he traveled to Yemen, where he joined AQAP. The video revealed him as a new AQAP leader. Though his exact role remains unknown, he may have replaced a senior figure killed in recent strikes. Al-Ghamdi's newfound role raises some interesting questions about AQAP's leadership. For instance, numerous rumors have referenced the mysterious absence and possible death of the group's leader, Nasir al-Wahayshi. An unverified audio message purportedly from al-Wahayshi was distributed to jihadist/extremist websites May 16 in which he praised Anwar al-Awlaki and threatened reprisals if the U.S.-born cleric is killed. The absence of images of al-Wahayshi suggest he is either in hiding or was in fact killed, though sources in Yemen claim he remains alive. In any case, even though Yemen's operations against AQAP continue, the group remains a credible threat to security in Yemen and perhaps beyond.
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