The Jewel in the Crown of Washington’s Permanent War: Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

In the final of the ‘Permanent War’ series from the Washington Post, Craig Whitlock reports on the expansion of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the U.S. first ‘counter-terrorism’ base, and the hub of drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. In fact, drones take off and land around 16 times a day at the base, which is sandwiched between Somalia (10 miles to the Southeast) and Yemen (North, across the Gulf of Aden).permanentWar26

The origin of the base lies as a ‘Third World’ outpost by the French Foreign Legion (Yemen itself is a former French colony). About a decade ago it was used for marines looking to gain a foothold in the region. Since then, it has been transformed into the busiest Predator base outside of Afghanistan. The secretive 500 acre base is dedicated to counter-terrorism–the first of its kind–against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in a perpetual war.

Activities at Camp Lemonnier increased in 2010 after 8 Predators were delivered, turning the camp into a fully-fledged drone base. AQAP in Yemen had attempted to bomb two U.S.-bound airliners and jihadists in Somalia consolidated their hold. JSOC plays a central role at the base, with 300 Special Forces personnel coordinating raids from inside a barb wired compound. A total of 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians, and contractors are assigned to the camp where they ‘train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root’.

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Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 142

By Katherine Zimmerman  July 11, 2012
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Today’s suicide bombing in Sana’a, the second in two months, underscores the challenges faced by the country’s nascent government in restoring stability and security in Yemen. Last month, Yemeni security forces regained control of southern regions held by Ansar al Sharia, the insurgent arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP’s ability to conduct asymmetrical attacks has not been significantly reduced, however.

A suicide bomber attacked Yemen’s Police Academy in Sana’a, the capital. The attack occurred at 1:30pm local time in Sana’a when the police cadets were coming out of class. At least nine people were killed in the blast, according to Yemen’s Interior Ministry. Some sources are reporting that over 22 people were killed. In May, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) targeted troops rehearsing a military parade in Sana’a, killing close to one hundred soldiers.

Yemeni security officials have been targeted by car bombs. In the past week, at least two assassination attempts have been made in Sana’a: a bomb planted in the car of Lt. Col. Mohammed al Qudami, an intelligence officer, killed him on July 2, and two days later, Saleh al Mustafa, the police chief in Mathbah neighborhood in Sana’a, exited his vehicle moments before a car bomb detonated. The attacks are similar to targeted assassinations carried out by AQAP in the past.

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Al Qaeda Flees

Advancing Against Al Qaeda

Advancing Against Al Qaeda (Photo credit: Third Way)

June 18, 2012:  In the last week, al Qaeda has pulled its remaining gunmen from most of the towns and villages it had been occupying for the last year. The major al Qaeda strongholds, Jaar and Zinjibar, are now occupied by police. There are no more known al Qaeda strongholds in Abyan province, which has long been the center of al Qaeda power in southern Yemen.

At its peak, al Qaeda has over 10,000 armed followers in the south. Most of these were allied tribesmen, who were seeking autonomy for their tribes and southern Yemen. The pro-terrorist tribesman eventually noted that many of their fellow southerners were hostile to al Qaeda, and that hostility spread as al Qaeda tried to impose its usual lifestyle adjustment in the few areas it took control of. Although many of the southern tribesmen are conservatives, they don’t like being pushed around by a bunch of self-righteous religious fanatics. Earlier this year the Yemeni government got rid of long-time leader (and irritant) Ali Abdullah Saleh and united the armed forces. The southern separatists and their al Qaeda allies had lost their edge. For the last few months it’s been downhill for the al Qaeda/separatist tribes’ alliance.

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Spy who uncovered underwear bomb plot is British national, sources say

Trouser Bomber at Home

Trouser Bomber at Home (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

would-be suicide bomber was actually a British national, working through British intelligence to infiltrate the terror organization in Yemen.

By Robert Windrem
NBC News

The spy who helped Western intelligence agencies thwart a plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner was a British national of Middle Eastern origin, sources tell NBC News.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, also say that British intelligence was “heavily involved” in recruiting the spy, who has not yet been identified publicly, and penetrating the plot by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to detonate a new, more sophisticated underwear bomb aboard a U.S. jetliner.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, would say only that multiple friendly security services were involved in the operation. Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism operation also were involved, other U.S. officials have told NBC News.

U.S. and British officials have long reported that AQAP has wanted to recruit Muslims with Western passports to carry out attacks like the one revealed this week. As an example, the officials cited AQAP’s recruitment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed in the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit.

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How the “Underwear Bomber” Met Anwar al-Awlaki

Posted on 2012/03/13 by Florian Flade

“Underwear Bomber”  – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

On Christmas Day 2009 a young Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded US-bound Northwest Airlines Flight 253 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. He did not raise any suspicion until he tried to set fire to his pants when the airplane was flying over Detroit. Other passengers tackled the young African man to the ground, preventing him from carrying out his deadly mission: to blow up the airliner over the US with an explosive device hidden in his underwear.

Before he started his suicidal mission, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, son of wealthy Nigerian banker, had lived in Yemen for several months. The devout Muslim had made contact with one of the most dangerous Jihadi clerics – late Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Yemeni preacher who was killed in a US drone strike in September 2011. Awlaki arranged for the ambitious Nigerian a trip to the training camps of Al-Qaida in Yemen.

Abdulmutallab, the so-called failed “Underwear Bomber” was sentenced to life in prison by a US court on February 16. New court documents reveal how Abdulmutallab came in touch with Awlaki and how he was guided into the inner core of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Here is an excerpt from a FBI document highlighting Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab´s journey in Yemen and his meeting with Anwar al-Awlaki.

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“In August 2009, defendant left Dubai, where he had been taking graduate classes, and traveled to Yemen. For several years, defendant had been following the online teachings of Anwar Awlaki, and he went to Yemen to try to meet him in order to discuss the possibility of becoming involved in jihad. Defendant by that time had become committed in his own mind to carrying out an act of jihad, and was contemplating “martyrdom;” i.e., a suicide operation in which he and others would be killed.

Once in Yemen, defendant visited mosques and asked people he met if they knew how he could meet Awlaki. Eventually, defendant made contact with an individual who in turn made Awlaki aware of defendant’s desire to meet him. Defendant provided this individual with the number for his Yemeni cellular telephone.

Thereafter, defendant received a text message from Awlaki telling defendant to call him, which defendant did. During their brief telephone conversation, it was agreed that defendant would send Awlaki a written message explaining why he wanted to become involved in jihad. Defendant took several days to write his message to Awlaki, telling him of his desire to become involved in jihad, and seeking Awlaki’s guidance. After receiving defendant’s message, Awlaki sent defendant a response, telling him that Awlaki would find a way for defendant to become involved in jihad.

Thereafter, defendant was picked up and driven through the Yemeni desert. He eventually arrived at Awlaki’s house, and stayed there for three days. During that time, defendant met with Awlaki and the two men discussed martyrdom and jihad. Awlaki told defendant that jihad requires patience but comes with many rewards. Defendant understood that Awlaki used these discussions to evaluate defendant’s commitment to and suitability for jihad. Throughout, defendant expressed his willingness to become involved in any mission chosen for him, including martyrdom – and by the end of his stay, Awlaki had accepted defendant for a martyrdom mission. Continue reading

Array of security challenges face Yemen’s new leader – Abd Rabbu Mansur al-Hadi

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 5

March 8, 2012 06:11 PM Age: 24 hrs By: Jeb Boone

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Abd Rabbu Mansur al-Hadi, President of Yemen

In the opening days of his presidency, Yemen’s new leader Abd Rabbu Mansur al-Hadi has as his priorities the restructuring of the military and the expulsion of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and allied militant Islamist group Ansar al-Shari’a from the restive southern province of Abyan. However, Hadi’s largest shortcoming, his lack of tribal connections, will prove to be a nearly insurmountable obstacle as he attempts to secure the country after more than a year of tribal and political upheaval.

Hadi is a relative unknown in Yemen and has worked in the background behind former president Ali Abdullah Saleh for the entirety of his political career. The new president was born in a small village in the former state of South Yemen and rose steadily in the ranks of the military. After the 1994 Yemeni civil war, Hadi was appointed vice-president by Saleh in an attempt to reconcile with the south after its defeat in the war and subsequent unification with North Yemen. His close association with the Saleh regime caused him to lose a great deal of credibility with southern Yemenis while simultaneously maintaining little sway with northern Yemen’s powerful tribes.

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3 Executed by Militants for Helping U.S. in Yemen

Yemen division 2011-7-7

Image via Wikipedia

By REUTERS  Published: February 12, 2012

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) — Islamist militants in southern Yemen said they executed three men on Sunday for giving the United States information used to carry out drone strikes in the area.

Residents of the towns of Jaar and Azzan said two Saudis and one Yemeni were beheaded at dawn by the militant group Ansar al-Sharia.

A spokesman for the group later said none of those executed were Saudi citizens, but all three had been working for the intelligence services of the kingdom, a close ally of the United States.

A number of important figures in Al Qaeda’s wing in Yemen are Saudi militants wanted by the authorities in Riyadh.

The United States has been launching drone strikes against militants in the south. Last month, at least 12 people were killed in one such attack. Continue reading