Osama, Al Qaeda guide Yemen plots from Pakistan

Friday, November 5, 2010

WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based group linked to the US-bound parcel bombs, was believed to have been provided strategic and philosophical guidance from Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders from Pakistan.

According to the Wall Street Journal, increased communication and collaboration between Al Qaeda militants in Yemen and the group’s central leadership have fueled alarm about terrorist plots which US and European officials believe remain active despite efforts to thwart them.

The release of a bin Laden audiotape last week might have been the signal for AQAP to set the package-bomb plot in motion, the paper said quoting some officials.

The AQAP has at times sought the blessings of bin Laden on leadership decisions. Direct command-and-control for terror operations is believed to rest chiefly with the local affiliate, officials said.

“Nobody thinks last week was the whole enchilada,” a senior counter-terrorism official said about the cargo-bombing plot. “There are still things in play.”

Officials said counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan don’t appear to have disrupted the multiple plots, in part because sleeper cells may already be in place in European cities. European authorities have launched an expanded manhunt for individuals who may be involved.

Officials say, militant groups appeared to be looking for targets aligned with bin Laden’s objectives. “Everyone is playing in concert with his larger guidance,” a senior US official said. “This is part of their long-term strategy.”

Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said senior Al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan rely increasingly on affiliates like AQAP to carry out operations because US pressure has made it harder for them to act unilaterally.

Hoekstra said they are “communicating more with each other, influencing the direction of each other and coordinating activities.”

Jane Harman, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, said it was her assumption that militants could follow the cargo-bomb attempt by activating commando-style attack plans for Europe, though the US has only generalised information about when and where that might occur.

“These guys,” she said of Al Qaeda, “they can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Filed under: Terrorism

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