Its First Challenge to the Israeli Army Mounted from Gaza

Al Qaeda in Yemen has merged with the Saudi network to form a new regional command, its second in two years, called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, it was announced this week in the latest issue of the online journal Sada al Malahim (Echo of Epics).

In 2007, Osama bin Laden established Al Qaeda in the Maghreb by consolidating the terrorist groups of North Africa under a single command.

The announcement of the new command on Jan. 27 stressed the three-way operation of links binding al Qaeda's Arabian and Maghreb branches to the Palestinians fighting in the Gaza Strip. A few days later, on Tuesday, Jan. 27, an al Qaeda cell in Gaza calling itself the Jihad and Tawhid Brigades, planted five large roadside bombs on the Israeli side of the border. One blew up an Israeli patrol jeep, killing one soldier and injuring three.

As Gaza's sovereign power, Hamas was held responsible for the attack. However DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources point out that it was in fact the biggest operation al Qaeda had ever staged against the Israeli army. Hamas approached the cell for cooperation, offering to lay on the bombs and intelligence.

They agreed to carry out the attack for the shared object of jeopardizing the mission of Barack Obama's new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, to consolidate the ceasefire.

As he discussed his mission in Cairo and Jerusalem, the two Islamist terrorist groups acted to demonstrate that a stable ceasefire for Gaza was out of reach so long as the US ostracized Hamas.


Going from strength to strength in Yemen


Al Qaeda often collaborates with local Muslim fundamentalists and offshoots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, the Maghreb, Yemen and Iraq and as of last year in Lebanon.

Now it has found a partner in the Gaza Strip.

In Yemen, al Qaeda has rejuvenated its operational leadership.

The new head of AQAP is Nasir al Wahishi, a former personal aide of bin Laden, who spent time in Iran and was extradited to Yemen in 2003.

His second-in-command is Saeed Ali al Shihri, aka Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al Shahri who was transferred from the Guantanamo Bay prisoner camp to Saudi Arabia in 2007. A Saudi national, he was awarded a rehabilitation grant by the Riyadh government against a pledge to foreswear terror. After using the money to build a big house and start a family, he turned up in Yemen as a top gun in the new al Qaeda establishment.

According to US defense department evidence, al Shari was providing logistical support to al Qaeda operatives in Iran and teaching them how to enter Afghanistan by clandestine routes.

In September, 2008, he took part in the bombing of the US embassy in Sanaa, killing 16 people.

This week, al Shahri was one of two former Guantanamo inmates who appeared on an al Qaeda website video to affirm their dedication to jihad shortly after President Barack Obama signed a directive to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba within a year.


Yemen group invites jihadists to train for Gaza


His predecessor as No. 2 in the Yemeni terrorist hierarchy, Qasim al Reimi, also appeared in the video saying: “The calamity which you experience is enough for you to recognize your true enemies. [They are] those who speak you language… but besiege you and deprive you of medical treatment, food and water, and those who prevent your brothers in Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Beirut, Royadh and Sana'a from helping you.”

The new al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is planning to build training camps in Yemen for fighters wishing to join the jihad in the Gaza Strip.

“From here we start. In Aqsa we meet!” says the group.

Punishment for the Western nations supporting Israel against Gaza has figured large in speeches this month by bin Laden, Ayman Zawahri, Yeyah al Libi, the Taliban and the Maghreb command.

Promised in statements in the Sada al Malahim journal are attacks on oil facilities, tourist sites and security forces.

While al Qaeda cells have been on the run in Saudi Arabia for some years, the new organization appears to be going from strength to strength in Yemen. It claims that the governorates of Abyan, Shabwam Hadhramouth, Marib, Al Jawf and Saada are about to fall into AQAP hands.

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