This Saturday evening, Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula issued a statement claiming the assassination attempt on Muhammad Bin Nayif (hat tip: Evan). See here for an automatic translation. By the way, Michael Dunn has a good roundup of Saudi media reports on the attack.
The statement identified the attacker as “Abu al-Khayr” alias Abdallah Hasan Tali’ Asiri, a Saudi national who was number 40 on the list of 85 wanted militants issued on 3 February 2009. The statement includes a picture of Asiri, who looks very young indeed. I don’t know much about him except the obvious, ie that he or is family is originally from the south, and that he is not a Guantanamo alumnus.
The statement says the operation was the result of “unique intelligence work”, and it insinuates that Asiri flew from Najran (near the Saudi-Yemen border) to Jidda to carry out the operation. This suggests that he may have been dispatched from QAP headquarters in Yemen.
If this is the case, I am somewhat relieved, because it would mean that a) the firepower of QAP HQ is smaller than I feared, and b) there still isn’t a significant organisation inside the Kingdom proper. But then again, the statement may be a deliberate attempt to deceive.
By the way the declaration also says the organization has uncovered a network of Saudi spies in Yemen operating without the knowledge of Yemeni authorities. More “interesting details” are to follow, the statement says. Let’s just hope we don’t have an Iraq-style “captured spy” scenario.
A little Background courtesy of WestPoint.
In late January 2009, news broke that two Saudi returnees from Guantanamo Bay had surfaced in Yemen and assumed leadership positions with the newly formed al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The returnees were identified as Said al-Shahri (#31 and ISN 372) and Mohammed al-Aufi (#73 and ISN 333). The news was compounded by the fact that the two were also graduates of Saudi rehabilitation and reintegration programs for returnees from Guantanamo Bay.
al-Aufi appeared in a video alongside al-Qa`ida in Yemen commander Nasir al-Wahayshi and deputy commander Qasim al-Raymi announcing the formation of AQAP, a product of the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi al-Qa`ida affiliates.
In addition, the statements in the video focused on the war in Gaza and criticism of Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Hizb Allah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and Saudi Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Na’if bin `Abd al-`Aziz. Al-Shahri and al-Aufi both spoke about Guantanamo, accusing regional governments of cooperating with the U.S. government by sending interrogators to the U.S. detention facility to extract confessions later used against detainees. Al-Shahri discussed prison conditions in Saudi Arabia, while al-Aufi railed against the Saudi care program, mentioning by name —Prince Muhammad bin Na’if — and Dr. Turki al-Atyan.
Prince Muhammad bin Na’if bin `Abd al-`Aziz is the assistant minister of interior for security affairs, the overall official responsible for the Saudi rehabilitation program.
The video was likely produced on or around January 12, 2009.
Prof. Madawi al-Rasheed on the event: