Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen: “Security measures harm the government, not us”” [Archives:2008/1186/Local News]

September 1 2008

SANA’A, August 30)The head of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Osama, said that Al-Qaeda still has plans to execute operations all over the country, including in Sana’a. Abu Osama, who is the successor to Hamzah Al-Quaiti, is part of the armed wing of the Jund Al-Yemen Battalions, a group that claims to represent Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The possibility of new attacks was mentioned in an exclusive interview Abu Osama gave to Yemen’s Al-Wasat newspaper through another member of the Jund Al-Yemen Battalions who acted as an intermediary.

In the interview, Abu Osama criticized the government’s security measures as futile. “Due to security precautions, the government and investments were harmed, security was unsettled and the economy deteriorated. This harms the authorities and in turn, increases our stability,” said Abu Osama, whose real name was not revealed in the article.

Asked if Al-Qaeda chose Hadhramout to carry out their attacks because the government had heightened security in and around Sana’a, Abu Osama said that “Hadhramout is one of the government’s arteries in terms of oil and because it is a coastal and investment [oriented] governorate, so we want to cut that artery.”

He added that the governments’ security situation was clearly deteriorating as evidenced by the extra security forces at checkpoints.

Abu Osama also denied the surrender and arrest of several Al-Qaeda followers in the Ji’ar region of Abyan governate. He said that the government considers shopkeepers who sell food to Al-Qaeda youth, owners of restaurants and bus drivers who deal with Al-Qaeda as Al-Qaeda elements and based on that, states that it allegedly arrested a group of “terrorists.”

“All I know is that only one person affiliated with us surrendered voluntarily according to pre [determined] conditions he made,” he said.

Concerning Thabit Al-Qahtani who is believed to be in Yemen and planning to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia, Abu Osama confirmed that Al-Qahtani is in Yemen but he refused to talk about whether he plans to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia. “I don’t have the authority to talk about operations in the Land of the Two Mosques,” he said.

He confirmed that Western interests are a target along with army and security forces. “We don’t target them until after a warning has been issued,” said Abu Osama. He added that he thinks the Yemeni government “fights under the flag of America” and hence deserve any attacks that the group launches inside the country.

When asked about mediation efforts between the government and Al-Qaeda, he said that mediation hasn’t brought about any agreements. “There were mediation committees but all of them reached an impasse,” said Abu Osama. “Brothers such as Jaber Al-Banna and Jamal Al-Badawi who surrendered themselves through these committees were taken to jail, as the government broke its commitment.” Abu Osama told Al-Wasat that the last message his group had received from President Saleh was that there was nothing between the two sides except bullets. “We replied that we are capable and that the real reply is what you will see.”

Abu Osama also admitted that there is difficulty in liaison between Al-Qaeda cells and leaders. “We exist in 80 regions in Yemen” he said. However, he added, “We have regions to resort to [in order to] re-gather our cells and declare resistance.”

The Saudi-based Al-Watan newspaper previously reported that Nayf Mohammed Al-Qahtani, known as Abi Hamam, manages Al-Qaeda operations in Yemen, maintaining that he has been in Yemen for about a year and receives financial support from Iranians and Libyans to carry out operations targeting Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He further serves as a liaison officer for Al-Qaeda cells in the two countries.

The newspaper said that sources confirmed that Al-Qahtani supplies many terrorist attacks targeting Yemeni structures such as the attack that killed a number of Spanish tourists in 2007. Al-Qahtani is thought to be entrenched in a mountainous shelter near the Abeada tribe’s region near the Saudi -Yemeni border.

“Investigations are on track with Mohsen Al-Akiri and Mohammed Ba Awaidhan who are members of Tarim cell,” quoted Al-Watan newspaper. “They were arrested in Tarim (a city in Hadramout governorate) after they were injured,” reported the newspaper, which revealed details about the plan that Al-Qaeda aimed to carry out in Yemen and Saudi Arabia against oil, tourist and economic constructions.

[Archives:2008/1186/Local News]