Lee Ferran / ABC News – 2011-04-17 00:29:20
FBI Counter-Terror Official: Al Qaeda ‘Thrives’ After Dictators Fall
(April 15, 2011) — On the same day reports emerged of a new al Qaeda video that praised the revolutions sweeping the Arab world, one the U.S.’s top counter-terror officials warned the terror organization “thrives” in the political unrest that follows.
“The governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have drastically changed in the last six months,” FBI Assistant Director of Counter-Terrorism Mark Giuliano said Thursday. “They are now led by transitional or interim governments, military regimes, or democratic alliances with no established track record on counterterrorism efforts. Al Qaeda thrives in such conditions and countries of weak governance and political instability — countries in which governments may be sympathetic to their campaign of violence.”
Giuliano made the comments at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy just hours before the first reports emerged of the new al Qaeda video, which features separate appearances by al Qaeda’s number two commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and American-born key commander in al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP), Anwar al-Awlaki, each praising the recent uprisings.
In the hour-plus long video, al-Zawahiri orders Muslims in Egypt to create an Islamic state there and calls for the Arab armies of the Middle East to intervene in Libya to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi before “Western aid… turns into
If Guiliano is wary of Islamic militant influence in the uprisings, especially in Libya, he’s is not alone. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her fears the revolt in Libya would be exploited by terror groups at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting in early March.
When President Obama authorized the U.S. government to provide covert support for the Libyan rebels later that month, the deal did not include arms provisions.
“We don’t know as much as we would like to know and as much as we expect we will know,” Clinton said at the time of the rebels the U.S. was supporting.
Eastern Libyan towns now associated with the rebel cause were just a few years before considered by the U.S. as havens for al Qaeda fighters, according to government documents.
Still, one U.S. official saw the new al Qaeda video as just another attempt in al Qaeda’s recent, belated efforts to spin the spreading Arab-world protests in their favor.
“Al Qaeda must be pretty damn frustrated these days,” the official told ABC News Thursday in response to the video. “Calls for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa don’t exactly square with their extremist views. They’ve been on the wrong side of history — and humanity — for years.”
Whether their spin on the Arab revolutions is working or not, Guiliano said al Qaeda’s ability to reach millions around the globe through such video propaganda and al-Qaeda’s English-language online magazine “Inspire” — which dedicated its whole last issue to supporting the revolutions — is a serious threat to U.S. security.
In fact, Guiliano said that al-Awlaki’s AQAP, which produces “Inspire” in addition to online videos, has become “the most serious threat to the homeland today” — even more so than Osama Bin Laden’s “core” al Qaeda group. That’s in part due to their media savvy, he said.
“AQAP… understands and expertly exploits social media to share their knowledge with others of similar mindsets,” he said. “They realize the importance and value of reaching English speaking audiences and are using the group’s marketing skills to inspire individuals to attack within the homeland.”
One U.S. official told ABC News that by having al- Awlaki’s message appear with that of senior al Qaeda leadership in the new video — which is unprecedented — the “core” al Qaeda group may be using al-Awlaki to reach a “more Western audience.”
ABC News’ Matthew Cole contributed to this report.
Al Qaeda Releases New Web Video: Official Says Al Qaeda in Yemen More Dangerous Than Osama Bin Laden
Matthew Cole and Lee Ferran / ABC News
(April 14, 2011) — In a new, rare video message from al Qaeda’s number two terrorist commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri calls on Arab armies to intervene in Libya to help eject dictator Moammar Gadhafi before “Western aid… turns into invasions.”
The hour-plus long video posted online is the first since Egypt’s successful revolution and features the Osama bin Laden deputy in a white robe with the barrel of an assault rifle visible at his side. In addition to discussing the bloody fighting in Libya, al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian native, celebrates the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and says that the continuation of the North African nation depends on the destruction of Israel and the establishment of Islamic law.
Though al-Zawahiri has released audio messages in recent months, it is the first video appearance one of the world’s most wanted men has made in more than a year and half. The video also features a separate segment in which American-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a key leader of al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, shows his support for the revolutions while denouncing U.S. involvement in the Muslim world in general. It’s unclear when that portion of the video was made, but it’s the first time al-Zawahiri and al-Awlaki have been featured in the same production by as-Sahab, al Qaeda’s media wing.
Both al Qaeda leaders’ messages mark another attempt in al Qaeda’s recent, belated efforts to spin the spreading Arab world protests in their favor.
“Al Qaeda must be pretty damn frustrated these days,” a U.S. official told ABC News. “Calls for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa don’t exactly square with their extremist views. They’ve been on the wrong side of history — and humanity — for years.”
Al-Zawahiri previously lauded the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia in the latest issue of al Qaeda’s English-language magazine “Inspire”.
Last month U.S. government officials and terrorism experts largely declared the recent Arab revolutions a sign of al Qaeda’s demise, saying the Islamist terror group is unable to garner significant popular support. For months, few, if any messages from al Qaeda leaders have commented on the removal of Arab regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya or the unrest in at least four other Arab nations.
In February, in the midst of the Egyptian uprising, al-Zawahiri released a 34-minute audio message blasting the corrupt government under Mubarak. Al-Zawahiri, the founder of the violent Egyptian Islamic Jihad, was jailed in Egypt in the 1980s for his connection to the assassination of then-President Anwar Sadat. He later accused the Egyptian government of systematic torture in the prison.
Al-Zawahiri was indicted in the U.S. for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. There is currently a $25 million reward for information leading to his apprehension.
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