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Al-Qaida’s Yemen chiefs still focused on U.S.

Molly Huscroft

Yemen protests in March

Yemen al-Qaida branch focused on U.S., gaining major enemies

A new report by a top Army counterterrorism center stated that the only way to eliminate the Yemen branch of al-Qaida is to take out its Yemen leaders.

Despite the recent killing of American-born al-Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, the Wall Street Journal reports that terror chief Nasir al-Wahayshi and other key figures are equally determined to complete attacks on the U.S. homeland. Al-Wahayshi was in charge of the Yemen al-Qaida branch when the group launched its first official attack, the double suicide bombing of U.S. oil facilities in Yemen in 2006.

Another key figure still at large is military leader Abdullah al-Rimi, who is wanted for questioning in connection to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, in which 17 American sailors were killed.

Al-Qaida’s most recent plans in Yemen have gained the group significant opponents. Al-Qaida has taken advantage of the unrest and revolts in Yemen and has attempted to seize and hold territory inside the country. This military campaign has created at least one major enemy – the Yemeni government.

The report released Monday by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center suggests that if the Yemeni government cut deals with its opponents, they would form a majority that could overwhelm al-Qaida. This would also undermine al-Qaida’s message that change only comes through jihad – a religious struggle. Instead, as in the revolutions in other countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, it would exemplify that change can come through a more worldly form of revolution.

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