AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri emerges as key Yemen suspect
Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a Saudi national accused of being the top bombmaker for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is now likely to be a focus of counterterrorism efforts.
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Asiri's family members say he vanished from Saudi Arabia about three years ago. His father told the Saudi press that he didn't know what had become of his son until he was named to the Saudi government's most wanted list in February 2009. Apparently, he'd fled to Yemen, where many Saudi Al Qaeda operatives have been chased by the Saudi security services since 9/11, largely quelling a wave of Al Qaeda inspired attacks that had many international analysts worried about the stability of the Kingdom in the first half of the last decade.Skip to next paragraph
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In August of 2009, Asiri demonstrated what Saudi Arabia had been so afraid of: He dispatched his younger brother as a suicide bomber to assassinate Saudi counterterrorism chief Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. Abdullah al-Asiri contacted the Saudi government and said he wanted to renounce violence and rejoin society. Allowed to come home, he was invited to meet with Mr. Nayef, and blew himself up with a bomb that Saudi authorities said was concealed in a body cavity. The blast killed the younger Asiri but left Nayef with only minor injuries.
His second international effort involved the young Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber who tried to detonate his concealed explosive on a crowded flight to Detroit, injuring no one but himself.
While AQAP's international efforts have largely been failures so far, they've been creating major problems in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country. In addition to dealing with this group of religiously inspired militants, Yemeni authorities are contending with two other insurgencies not tied to Al Qaeda.
Fares al-Sanabani, the publisher of the Yemen observer newspaper, told Al Jazeera english that AQAP has shot and killed 70 Yemeni policemen in the past two months, and says the Yemeni government will be pushing the US and other governments for more weapons and aid to deal with the problem. “You need equipment, you need training, you need know-how and you need intelligence. That’s what Yemen is lacking and that’s what Yemen wants," he told the network.
Dealing with Yemen's internal problems will be a matter of years. But removing Asiri from the picture will probably reduce the chances of a succesful international attack emenating from the country – at least until another young firebrand develops the skills to take his place.