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Tuesday Papers (or loose threads)

You have got to admire a journalist who does not mess around with burying a cliche, but just goes ahead and leads with it. I disagree with a handful of things in the story, but its early and I’m sure once I’ve had my coffee I will feel more gracious, so …

News Yemen is reporting that the military has withdrawn from Ja’ar after arresting nearly 50 suspects, of course when it went into Ja’ar the government said it was pursuing forty suspects.

Himyar al-Ahmar, one of the sons of the late Shaykh ‘Abdullah, tells the Saudi paper ‘Ukaz that the blame for many of Yemen’s problems is coming from Iran, claiming that Iranian takfiri groups are feeding and financing acts of violence in the country.

This, of course, echoes what Muhammad al-‘Awfi said in his confessions. I think it is also important to remember when thinking about the recent accusations – official and otherwise – coming out of Yemen and Saudi Arabia over the past few weeks aimed at Iran and Libya, that this is nothing new.

Following the raid on an al-Qaeda safehouse in Tarim on August 12, 2008, the Saudi paper al-Watan ran an article linking Nayif Muhammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi member of what was then known as al-Qaeda in the South of the Arabian Peninsula, to both Iran and Libya. The article, from August 20 (sorry I can’t find a link besides the hard copy I have) alleged that al-Qahtani was receiving funding from individuals in both countries, although it stopped short of actually accusing either government of being complicit in the alleged transfer of money.

Interestingly and perhaps confusingly, the story also claims that Yemeni security forces found two Saudi passports in the safe house. One from Badh bin Muqahis bin Badh al-Qahtani and one from Walid bin Radhi in Sumaylil al-‘Utayb. The former, of course, later appeared on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85, although according to Nayif Muhammad al-Qahtani’s article in the 8th issue of Sada al-Malahim he died in Iraq fighting US forces – this passport in Tarim is the only evidence I’ve seen to suggest he was ever in Yemen.

Al-Qahtani’s article in Sada al-Malahim as well as the al-Watan article, perhaps partially answer the question that many have been asking: Why al-Shihri as deputy commander of AQAP and not one of the earlier Saudis to come to Yemen, like say al-Qahtani?

The al-Watan article (August 20, 2008), claims that al-Qahtani, who is 30-years-old only holds the equivalent of a high school degree, while his own article in Sada al-Malahim is at pains to point out the religious qualification of AQAP’s leaders. Al-Raymi graduated from one of Yemen’s many religious institutes, al-Shihri (in addition to his time on the battlefield and in Guantanamo) was a religious student and has memorized the Qur’an, not necessarily indicative of depth of learning but a mark of pride nonetheless. Al-Wahayshi, of course, was also a student at one of Yemen’s religious institutes, but more importantly is personally connected to Usama bin Ladin as his personal secretary.

I don’t think the timing of al-Shihri and al-‘Awfi’s arrival in Yemen should be discounted either – as the pair reached Yemen at the perfect time for the organization: there was heavy fighting in Gaza, which was enraging public opinion, and al-Qaeda in the South of the Arabian Peninsula had developed its infrastructure to the point that it was looking to expand.


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