Nov 8 Here are some facts on the Yemen-based
branch of al Qaeda, which has claimed responsibility for a
foiled plot to send explosive parcels to the United States in
October. The group made the claim in a Nov. 5 message posted on
Islamist Internet forums.
* Al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi wings merged in 2009 into a
new group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in
Yemen. A Saudi counter-terrorism drive halted an armed campaign
in Saudi Arabia by al Qaeda from 2003 to 2006.
* AQAP's Yemeni leader, Nasser al-Wahayshi, was once a close
associate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whose father was
born in Yemen, a neighbour of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
* AQAP has carried out attacks against Westerners and seeks
the fall of the U.S.-allied Saudi royal family. Yemen's foreign
minister has said 300 AQAP militants might be in the country.
* AQAP claimed responsibility for an attempt to bomb a
U.S.-bound passenger plane on Dec. 25, 2009, and said it
provided the explosive device used in the failed attack. The
suspected bomber, a young Nigerian man, Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab, had visited Yemen and had been in contact with
* Yemen declared open war on al Qaeda in January 2010
following the Christmas Day attack, stepping up air strikes
targeting the group. But Sanaa has come under criticism from
rights groups for the strikes, which also killed many civilians.
* On Nov. 5, the militant group claimed responsibility for
for a foiled plot to send explosive parcels to the United States
-- two parcel bombs were intercepted on cargo planes in Britain
and Dubai. It also claimed responsibility for the September
crash of a UPS (UPS.N) plane in Dubai, in which two crew members
died. However, the United Arab Emirates' civil aviation
authority said on Oct. 31 that there was no evidence of an
explosive device aboard the jet.
* The United States and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will
exploit instability in Yemen -- which is also trying to cement a
truce with Shi'ite rebels in the north and quell separatist
unrest in the south -- to make it a launch pad for more attacks.
* U.S. officials have said the Pentagon is boosting military
assistance to Yemen's special operations forces to lead an
offensive targeting AQAP.
* AQAP has staged several attacks in Yemen in 2010, among
them a suicide bombing aimed at the British ambassador in April.
A rocket was fired at a British embassy vehicle in October.
* In August 2009, an AQAP suicide bomber tried to kill
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who heads Saudi Arabia's
anti-terrorism campaign and is a member of the Saudi royal
family. The same year, al Qaeda also carried out a suicide
attack that killed four South Korean tourists in Yemen.
* As well as hitting Western targets, AQAP has retaliated
against Yemeni forces trying to crack down on the group. It has
claimed attacks on troops this year, including one on a southern
checkpoint in August in which eight soldiers were killed.
* Al Qaeda was active in Yemen long before the Saudi and
Yemeni branches merged. Nearly a year before the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks, it bombed the U.S. warship Cole in October 2000 in the
southern port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors. In 2002, an al
Qaeda attack damaged a French supertanker in the Gulf of Aden.
* In 2008, two suicide bombers set off blasts outside the
heavily fortified U.S. embassy in Sanaa, killing 16 people,
including the attackers. Islamic Jihad in Yemen, a group which
analysts said was linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility.
* U.S. officials say Washington has authorised the CIA to
kill or capture Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to
AQAP. The group has threatened the United States with more
attacks should he be harmed.