Five key members of Al Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP)
Less than two years ago, Yemeni and Saudi militants formed a new franchise called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The January 2009 merger of existing operations in Saudi Arabia and Yemen was acknowledged by Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
1. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, head of AQAP
In November 2008, Mr. Zawahiri recognized Yemen-born Nasir al-Wuhayshi (or Nasser al Wahishi) as head of Al Qaeda in the region – a position he held onto when the Yemeni and Saudi branches merged. He reportedly comes from a wealthy family and was once a former personal secretary to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Robert Worth of The New York Times profiled the group in this feature article, describing Mr. Wuhayshi as a short man with small eyes, "laconic but quick-witted, with flashes of sarcastic humor and a remarkable ability to adduce Koranic verses to back up anything he said."
According to Foreign Policy, "Wuhayshi has proven to be both a skilled politician and an innovative, often brutal, adversary." The Boston Globe's Gregory D. Johnsen in 2007 described him as emblematic of Al Qaeda's "younger, more radicalized members."