It Is Official
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
Well, what we reported earlier this morning with caution, is now being confirmed by the Yemen Embassy in Washington. Muhammad al-'Awfi was arrested and sent back to Saudi Arabia according a press release that just arrived in my in-box:
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen, Washington D.C.
Date: Feb. 17, 2009 For Immediate Release
AL-QAEDA LEADER IS NOW CUSTODY
The Spokesman and commander of the so called "Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula" Mohammad Al-Awfi (alias: Abu Harith) is now in the custody of Yemeni authorities. Al-Awfi, a Saudi citizen and former Guantanamo detainee, who was defected to Yemen to join the creation of a new Al-Qaeda cell that targeted the Arabian Peninsula. Yemeni authorities repatriated Al-Awfi a few hours ago to Saudi Arabia.
In light of the recently reported Al-Qaeda activities, H.E. President Ali Abdullah Saleh spearheaded a campaign against the militant presence in the governorate of Marib. The President recently visited tribal areas and gave a stern warning that individuals who harbor wanted fugitives will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. "Terrorism damaged development initiatives and destabilized security in your areas," President Saleh told the tribal chieftains present. In addition, the Ministry of Interior announced over the weekend that anti-terrorism forces were mobilized to mountainous and desert hideouts, where suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists are believed to present.
So far, tens of suspects (includes foreign nationals) have been detained in these tactical operations. The level of counter-terrorism coordination has involved combined Yemeni and Saudi border forces, which have recently stepped up their security measures and efforts to prevent the movement of wanted terrorists within the immediate region. Al-Qaeda has attacked Yemeni civilians, bombed oil installations and foreign missions, targeted security personnel, directly threatening the security and stability of the country. Yemen has been the primary victim of these heinous acts against humanity, and with the assistance of its allies and concerned governments will do its utmost to combat Al-Qaeda.
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