Al Qaeda’s Growing Reach

January 11, 2010

An al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a passenger plane en route to the United States from Amsterdam. In a statement posted on several online forums, the group said it planned the attack “to avenge U.S. attacks on al Qaeda in Yemen.” The group known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula boasted of supplying Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab with explosives. The Yemeni group and its failed attack over American soil has drawn worldwide attention to the spread of al Qaeda.

The ongoing threat of terrorism by al Qaeda presents a different pattern from what has been seen in the past. Leadership of the network appears to have evolved from a centralized body to being a loose aggregation of groups. Plots are now emanating from African countries such as Yemen whereas before they exclusively emerged out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. One reason for this new development is that al Qaeda relies heavily on geographical safe havens. These are areas of the world where al Qaeda has the ability to set up training camps and meeting places without fear of interference or interruption.

In January of 2009, the Saudi and the Yemeni affiliates of al Qaeda merged into the organization now calledĀ al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. These affiliates joined forces in part to gain a larger regional focus for their activities. As the Saudi government cracked down on terrorist acts, al Qaeda ordered its members in Saudi Arabia to flee to Yemen. The new group that emerged is made up of Yemenis, Saudis, and other third-party nationals who have wasted no time in abducting and assassinating Yemen government officials and foreign tourists.

This past April, the Saudi government intercepted thirty suicide vests being transported into Yemen.

The goal of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is to establish an Islamic state in its region of the world and to fight against what its members term as “Western Crusaders.” The groups goals are that of a decentralized franchise concerned more with local issues than with global ones. These regional franchises are focusing on local grievances within specific areas and not necessarily to the worldwide concerns that many associate with Osama bin Laden.

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