Al-Qaeda's Emerging Leader: Nasir Al-Wuhayshi – An Advocate Of Lone Wolf And WMD Attacks On Planes, Buses And Subways In Western Countries

Special Dispatch Series No. 5409,  August 15, 2013

The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

This month's unprecedented terror alert and subsequent shutdown of U.S. embassies across the Middle East and Africa were triggered by intercepted communications between Al-Qaeda leader Al-Zawahiri and his newly appointed "general manager" and second-in-command, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, aka Abu Basir, about plans for a major terror attack.

The terror plot, as it turned out, was not ordered by Al-Zawahiri, as first reported, but was proposed by Al-Wuhayshi and approved by Al-Zawahiri.[1]

The Yemen-born Al-Wuhayshi, leader of the Yemen-based AQAP, won his reputation as a fighter in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, and was personal secretary to, and remained close to, Osama bin Laden. After fleeing to Iran from Tora Bora in 2001, he was arrested there and deported back to Yemen, where he was imprisoned until his escape in 2006 and his reemergence to establish and head AQAP in 2009. He has significant ties to Al-Zawahiri, and was one of the first leaders to express his approval of him and pledge his loyalty to him as Al-Qaeda leader following Osama bin Laden's killing. He has been a major target of the U.S. for years, and has been reported killed a number of times.

At 36, Al-Wuhayshi represents the next generation of the Al-Qaeda leadership; he is Internet savvy, and for the past five years has been actively bringing the philosophy of independent jihad and lone wolf attacks in the West directly to readers of Al-Qaeda's Internet forums, as he has openly and actively helped to create and grow Al-Qaeda's cyber army on these sites. These efforts have included providing email addresses for potential Western recruits of Al-Qaeda to contact Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and even providing encryption codes to be used for the messages.

Along with his close comrades from AQAP, Al-Wuhayshi was active in the founding of AQAP's English-language online Inspire Magazine, whose first issue, published in the summer of 2010, included the infamous "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" article. That article was based on a November 2009 article by Al-Wuhayshi that was published in an AQAP magazine. The first issue of Inspire also included an exclusive and lengthy interview with Al-Wuhayshi.

Since Al-Wuhayshi is now known to be both Al-Qaeda second-in-command and the author of the terror plot that prompted the alert and the shutdown of U.S. embassies, there is much for the West to be concerned about. His long-declared military strategy focuses on attacks on the West, including airplanes, trains, and subways, by methods including WMDs.

Al-Wuhayshi has stated that "we are infatuated with the events of 9/11" and that he and the mujahideen are seeking to repeat attacks on this scale. He also openly discusses and acknowledges that since 2010 he has been involved in planning strategies and plots to strike the U.S. Additionally, he has expressed satisfaction with the fear in the U.S. caused by AQAP's attacks, and the amount of money that the U.S. has been forced to spend on homeland security.

MEMRI JTTM – Following Al-Wuhayshi Since 2006

The MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Monitor (JTTM), have been monitoring Al-Wuhayshi's statements since 2006, publishing translations of his writings and of his audio and video messages – the most recent of which was a translation of his August 11, 2013 letter to imprisoned mujahideen everywhere. In that message, he promised the mujahideen that very soon they will be freed by their mujahideen brethren, who are toppling oppressive regimes daily, and assures them that they are on the verge of attaining victory and restoring the Caliphate.

Previous MEMRI JTTM reports on Al-Wuhayshi include: his December 2012 spotting in Yemen; the December 2011 report that he was unharmed In a U.S. Navy missile attack in Southern Yemen; his July 26 2011 pledge of loyalty to Al-Zawahiri as leader of Al-Qaeda following Osama bin Laden's killing; his May 2010 audio message to President Obama in response to the killing of Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki; his October 2009 appeal on major Al-Qaeda online forums for intelligence to use against U.S. military, his calls in September-October 2009 for attacking U.S. airplanes and his encouragement of lone-wolf bombers; his November 2009 calls for lone wolf attacks on Western airports, airplanes and subways, and his telling potential attackers that all the materials that they need to make bombs "are in your mother's kitchen"; his November 2009 calls for attacks with homemade bombs in the West; his January 2009 interview with Al-Jazeera in which he hints at future WMD attacks; the January 2009 release by AQAP of its first video with him, and his comments and an exclusive and extensive interview with him in Inspire magazine.

The following are excerpts from MEMRI JTTM reports on Al-Wuhayshi:

August 12, 2013: Al-Wuhayshi In Message To Mujahideen Prisoners: Your Liberation Is Near, As Is Islam's Triumph Worldwide

In an August 11 letter to imprisoned mujahideen everywhere, that was posted on Al-Qaeda's website Al-Fida', AQAP leader Al-Wuhayshi urges the prisoners to be patient and steadfast, as they have been trained to do, and promises them that very soon they will be freed by their mujahideen brethren who are toppling oppressive regimes daily. He emphasizes that the mujahideen are on the verge of attaining victory and restoring the Caliphate.

It is plausible that the letter is intended particularly for mujahideen incarcerated in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, against the backdrop of the recent prison breaks in which Al-Qaeda members escaped from prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

The letter was issued by Al-Qaeda's official media company, Al-Fajr.

Below are the letter's main points:

Addressing the mujahideen in the prisons of the "oppressive rulers," Al-Wuhaishi conveys his love and esteem for them and assures them they will never be forgotten and will remain in the hearts of their fellow fighters. To emphasize this, he states that the mujahideen are prepared to give their very souls for the prisoners' sake if the prisoners only request this.

He calls upon the prisoners never to lose sight of their true character and of every mujahideen's willingness to "die for the faith," and to display firmness vis-a-vis the prison authorities, as they have been trained to do. He emphasizes that the mujahideen inside and outside the prison are "in the same boat," so it is inconceivable that one of the groups will be saved while the other will not be.

Finally, he informs the prisoners that they will be released very soon because their mujahideen brethren "are pulverizing the walls of oppression while destroying and toppling the false [regimes'] seats of power, and but a single step remains until victory… Then the stage of trials will end and the stage of empowerment will commence."

After adding that very soon dawn will break "over the righteous Caliphate," he asks Allah to use the mujahideen to liberate their imprisoned brethren and alleviate their suffering, and notes that his letter is addressed to all prisoners everywhere who suffer imprisonment for the sake of Islam and the Islamic ummah.

December 13, 2012: Al-Wuhayshi Spotted With 50 Armed Men In Al-Mahfed, Yemen[2]

On December 12, 2012,, a Yemeni news website, reported that residents of the town of Al-Mahfad, in Yemen's southern province of Abyan, had spotted Abu Basir Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), among a group of armed men in the city. According to the site, more than 50 armed AQAP operatives, along with Al-Wuhayshi, had come to Al-Mahfad from Mar'ib, possibly fleeing attacks there. The site also reported that three members of the group were killed and another injured in a clash with tribesmen in the Al-Batha region, in Al-Wadi directorate.

Though he has made no video appearance in the last three years, Al-Wuhayshi, a former secretary to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has delivered several audio and written statements that were published on jihadi forums and by the group's news agency, Madad. Al-Wuhayshi's most recent audio message, in which he pledged loyalty to Ayman Al-Zawahiri upon the latter's succession of bin Laden, was published July 26, 2011.

On several occasion in the past few years, unconfirmed reports have surfaced claiming that Al-Wuhayshi had been killed, but these were later denied by AQAP. Last year, reported that Al-Wuhaisi had escaped a U.S. Navy missile strike unscathed in the southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar.[3]

December 23, 2011: Report – Al-Wuhayshi Unharmed In U.S. Navy Missile Attack In Southern Yemen[4]

On December 22, 2011, the news website reported that Al-Wuhayshi, emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was the target of a U.S. Navy missile attack in the city of Zinjibar in southern Yemen. Al-Wuhayshi was unharmed in the attack. This is the first reported involvement of the U.S. Navy in the war against AQAP in Yemen. According to the report, which cited "field sources," Al-Wuhayshi was at a farm situated two kilometers north of Zinjibar. The owner of the farm, which was targeted by "advanced" U.S. Navy missiles, is Sheikh Tariq Al-Fadhli, a veteran of the first Afghan war and a prominent figure in Yemen's Southern Mobility Movement (SMM). Five people were reported dead in the attack, among them Al-Wuhayshi's brother, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Wuhayshi.

July 26, 2011: Al-Wuhayshi Pledges Loyalty To Al-Zawahiri As Leader Of Al-Qaeda[5]

On July 26, 2011, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released an audio recording by its leader, Al-Wuhayshi pledging loyalty to Al-Qaeda's new leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Al-Wuhayshi began his message by pledging loyalty to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, saying that he would obey him until Islam dominates the world. Al-Wuhayshi also offered his condolences to Al-Zawahiri for the death of Osama bin Laden, and went on to state that the mujahideen in Yemen are in a good situation and are advancing their agenda according to Al-Zawahiri's plan.

Al-Wuhayshi then presented the success of the Arab uprisings as a positive step toward the fulfillment of Al-Qaeda's strategy and the defeat of its enemies, saying that they had brought down the "tyrants" of the Arab regimes and "made America's dreams disappear." He added that the Muslim nations have begun to abandon their loyalty to the West, and that Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh's regime is on the verge of collapse. He condemned Saleh's seeking of refuge in Saudi Arabia, referring to the medical treatment Saleh has been receiving in Riyadh following the June 3 attack on his compound in Sana'a.

Al-Wuhayshi went on to denounce the various political parties in Yemen and accused them of taking orders from and working for the U.S. Addressing the U.S., Al-Wuhayshi stated that it is helpless in the face of the situation in Yemen, and can only carry out intelligence operations and bomb the mujahideen from the air using drones. He then promised that his organization would not let these attacks go unanswered, and stated, "Our war against the Zionist-Crusader campaign will continue."

May 16, 2010: Al-Wuhayshi Audio Message To Obama In Response To Killing Of Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki[6]

On May 16, 2010, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a 10-minute audio recording from Al-Wuhayshi, titled "In Support of Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki."

In the recording, Al-Wuhayshi attacks the Obama administration for having (reportedly) authorized the targeted killing of the radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki. Al-Wuhayshi criticizes the U.S. for adopting this form of extrajudicial killing of one of its own citizens, though he also says that it does not matter to AQAP whether the U.S. brings charges, since Al-Awlaki's actions "are no crime in our shari'a." Al-Awlaki has publicly acknowledged his ties to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan and Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab and has praised their attacks. Al-Wuhayshi pledges in the new audio recording that the mujahideen in Yemen will do everything in their ability to protect Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Al-Wuhayshi also alludes to currently developing terror plots in the U.S., states that the mujahideen are "infatuated" with 9/11 and are seeking to repeat attacks on this scale, and even seems to indicate a desire to strike the same targets. In addition, he offers his protection to any other Muslim cleric who wishes to speak the truth or issue fatwas without fear, and tells Muslims in general, and U.S. Muslims in particular, that they should emigrate to the jihad fronts and join up with themujahideen.

Following are translated excerpts from the audio recording: 

"… The American administration issued a decision to the effect that the heroic, truth-telling preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki, may Allah preserve him, is wanted dead or alive. With all the lies, falsifications, and deceptions contained in this decision, it nonetheless made manifest to us some truths, and revealed to us the magnitude of the tragedies that have befallen the so-called liberties in America. [And it has revealed to us] the total silence of the American people, and the full support shown for the decision by this foolish people, who go along with and get carried away with these kinds of decisions that allow [the U.S.] to kill and hunt down its sons, without any charges being lodged or any proofs being presented...

"Obama, through these kinds of decisions, is leading you to what will harm you and humble you, and will not benefit your security, which your people has already lost.

"With this kind of political adventurism, you aid us in achieving your tragic end. Through it, we have reached the threshold of the White House before [i.e. on 9/11], and the heroic mujahid, [Christmas Day bomber] Umar Al-Farouq, recently arrived [at his target]. Your leaders, ignoring the magnitude of the losses it caused, called this operation a failure. If this was a failure, then tell me, by your Lord, how will a success look? It will certainly be a catastrophe for you. We are infatuated with the events of 9/11, and against it we measure gain and loss. One who seeks the heights as a groom will have the mountaintops as brides.

"Speak [the truth] to your people, oh Obama. Do not hide from them the magnitude of the danger that will come unexpectedly and that awaits them. Reveal to them the files on the investigations regarding the [terror] cells and the plots that are still ongoing, and the targets that the mujahideen are striving and determined to strike again.[7]

 "Go ahead and lie, oh Obama. How greatly we have exploited your mistakes and your lies to destroy your people. You are the ones who have the ability to determine and control your preordained destruction.

"Oh American people, your security is not in Obama's hands. One who lacks something is not capable of giving it. All Obama has is empty promises, feeble excuses, and cheap justifications, and painkillers to numb your nerves until he serves out his term in the White House.

"Your security is in the hands of the old women of Palestine, the children of Baghdad, the women of Kabul, and the old men of Mogadishu. Keep your fools away from us, and we will leave you alone. Spare us your oppression, and we will stop targeting you. How often have our commanders and leaders repeated these expressions, but unfortunately you have ignored them, and your leaders have continued in wrongdoing and trespass.

"As for the latest decision regarding the preacher Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki, it is nonsense, and will not get you anywhere. The war will not be brought to an end through the killing or capture of anyone from the leadership... For the issue between us and you...  is the defense of the Islamic nation – its religion, its blood, and its resources. It is the driving away of oppression and lifting coercion from people. It is to pull out from the roots your ugly terrorism – even from upon your own people. This is not a war of individuals, or of leaders, as you portray it. It is the war of an oppressed nation against an oppressor nation.

"Your leader, whom you support, has killed many women, children, and elderly from the 'Awalik tribe – the tribe of the sheikh [Anwar Al-Awlaki]. Who is it that needs to be brought to trial? Obama, or the innocent people? The wolf, or the victim? The oppressor, or the oppressed? The women and children of the 'Awalik tribe, or Obama?

"As for the preacher, Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki – and we are proud that there are the likes of him in the Islamic nation – he is not left to his own devices in the land, and will not be, Allah permitting. He is among all the Muslims who are taking revenge for the oppressive policies of the Americans, and they will never hand him over. They know that to hand him over to the infidels is unbelief and hypocrisy, and to stop aiding him is ignominy and disgrace. Their forefathers are the ansar (the natives of Medina) who gave shelter and aid to the Prophet of Allah, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him. They will revive their illustrious history of giving aid and jihad. We saw with our own eyes these characteristics in the Islamic tribes in the Arabian Peninsula today…

"In conclusion, the religious liberty the Americans so boast of – it began to constrain the Americans, and they struck it from their lexicon. They have silenced the voices of the preachers, opposed them, and concocted charges against them.

"Anyone, among the Muslims in general, and among the American [Muslims] in particular, who is harassed by the decisions of the American-Crusader war administration, should emigrate and join up with the mujahideen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, the Islamic Maghreb, or the Arabian Peninsula. There he will find liberty and safety. [In the words of the poet:] 'Strike your tent from upon a land in which you are oppressed / Avoid ignominy, for it is to be avoided.' [And in the words of Quran 4:100:] 'Whoever emigrates for the sake of Allah finds much refuge and abundance.' Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds."  

October 2009: Al-Wuhayshi Appeals To Major Al-Qaeda Online Forums For Intelligence To Use Against U.S. Military[8]

In the October 2009 edition of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) magazine Sada Al-Malahim, the organization's emir, Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, issued a call to the general public to send in intelligence that could be used in AQAP attacks.[9] In response, threads were devoted to posting such intelligence on the two major jihadist forums, Al-Falluja and Shumukh Al-Islam.[10] While Al-Wuhayshi's appeal had been for information of various kinds, the forum threads focused on naval intelligence.

In a recent contribution to the online initiative on Shumukh Al-Islam (though on a separate thread), an Internet jihadist calling himself "Talib Ridha Allah" (i.e. "one who seeks Allah's pleasure") suggested a means for blocking Bab Al-Mandab, the narrow strait between southwest Yemen and the Horn of Africa. He wrote that a small fishing boat could be used to cast 20 gunpowder-filled barrels into the path of the ships. Each barrel would have a percussion fuse, and would be equipped with a buoy to keep it from sinking. Then a communiqué would be issued warning Islamic civilian vessels to keep away.

The post claimed that this method would produce the following results: it would cost more than $10 million in direct costs to clear these primitive mines out of Bab Al-Mandab; indirect costs could reach $1 billion, due to the disruptions in shipping the barrels would cause; the operation would only cost 1,000 dollars, but would be a major media and propaganda coup; and the Suez Canal would be partially and temporarily put out of use, which would send a clear message to the "idol-king" Mubarak to not meddle in the situation in Yemen.

The author suggested that the communiqué describe the operation as a blockade against Israel and as a disruption of Crusader supply lines to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also suggested possible improvements to the plan: a naval ambush could be set up for the mine-clearer, decoy barrels could be placed among the real ones, and remote detonation devices could be employed in some of the barrels. In addition, he noted that the plan did not necessarily require the direct involvement of Al-Qaeda, though he thought it best if AQAP claim responsibility for it in any event.

September-October 2009: Al-Wuhayshi Calls For Attacking U.S. Airplanes, Encourages Lone-Wolf Bombers[11]

Abu Basir Al-Wuhayshi, Emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

AQAP emir Al-Wuhayshi wrote about bombing U.S. airplanes in a recent issue of the AQAP magazine Sada Al-Malahim. The issue was dated Shawwal 1430, corresponding to September-October 2009, and was posted on jihadist websites on October 28, 2009.

As reported by JTTM on November 5,[12] Al-Wuhayshi wrote an article titled "War Is Deception" in which he urged others to emulate Abu Al-Khayr ('Abdallah Hasan Tali' 'Asiri), an AQAP suicide bomber who attempted to assassinate Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Muhammad bin Naif. One of the passages in the article read:

"Make the explosives into a bomb that you can throw, set off with a timer, explode by remote, or make them into an explosives belt; or you can put them in any electronic device, like a digital recorder in which you hear the tunes of explosions, or in a photo album, a folder, or an envelope. Explode them on any taghut,[13] spy nest, Emir, minister, or Crusader, wherever you find them.

"Likewise, [you should explode them] in the airports of the Western Crusader countries that have taken part in the war against the Muslims, or in their planes, on their residential blocks, or in their subways, and so on. There is always a stratagem [to be found] if you think and rely on Allah, and have no fear of it being discovered after you have hidden it well. By the power of Allah, it can not be discovered…"

While Al-Wuhayshi appeared to be mainly encouraging independent actions on the part of "lone wolf" bombers, the article did include an offer to help with these initiatives: "For our part, we will make contact with anyone who wants to wage jihad with us, and we will guide him to a suitable means to kill the collaborators and the archons of unbelief…"  

According to media reports, 'Abd Al-Muttalib, the would-be bomber of NWA flight 253, had 80 grams of the explosive PETN sewn into his underwear.[14] This method of hiding the explosives in or near one's private parts may also be suggestive of an Al-Qaeda connection. In recent propaganda, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has taken great pride in the fact that the suicide bomber Abu Al-Khayr had managed to sneak his explosives through multiple levels of security and into the presence of the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister. The communiqué taking responsibility for the assassination attempt said that "nobody knows or will ever know the nature [of this explosives charge] and how it was detonated."[15] In fact, the bomber is believed to have hidden the explosives in his rectum. An AQAP video celebrating the assassination attempt later bragged that the explosives were not discovered "even though [Abu Al-Khayr] was searched more than once in the airports of Najran and Jeddah, and again at the Prince's palace."[16]

AQAP has also focused in its recent propaganda on the use of small amounts of powerful explosives. (According to some reports, Abu Al-Khayr's explosives were also in PETN.) Al-Wuhayshi wrote: "It requires no great effort on your part, nor large sums, to manufacture 10 grams, more or less, of explosives. Do not search long for the materials, since they are in your mother's kitchen and are ready at hand, in whatever city you are in. Then you will accomplish what Abu Al-Khayr accomplished, may Allah have mercy on him." Likewise, in the video released by AQAP in celebration of the assassination attempt, the suicide bomber himself said in a recording made before the bombing: "The tyrants of the House of Saud claimed that they had already shut down [the operations of] the jihad fighters, and banned the selling of explosives of any kind… Bur from now on, we will come to you with [only] 50 grams, 100 grams, or 200 grams [of explosives], and with Allah's help, our brothers in the manufacturing department will produce videos explaining how anyone, using simple materials available to him, can [manufacture explosives] and blow up the enemies of Allah… You will be surprised to learn that explosives can be manufactured [even] from foodstuffs…"[17]

In conclusion, it is not yet known for certain if or when 'Abd Al-Muttalib was in Yemen, but the circumstantial evidence drawn from AQAP's own publications and videos indicates that such a connection is plausible, and that the organization was actively seeking to assist in bombing plots like the attempt to blow up NWA 253. 

November 2009: Al-Wuhayshi Calls For Lone Wolf Attacks On Western Airports, Airplanes And Subways, Tells Attackers: All Materials To Make Bombs "Are In Your Mother’s Kitchen"[18]

On August 27, 2009, a suicide bomber from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attempted to assassinate Muhammad bin Naif, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister.[19] This was AQAP's first attempt at a high-level political assassination and it sent shock waves through the Saudi regime.

Approximately one month later AQAP released a propaganda video celebrating the assassination attempt, in which the group's commander, Nasir Al-Wuhayshi (aka Abu Basir) warned the Saudi royal family that further assassinations were forthcoming.[20] Now it appears that the attempt on Muhammad bin Naif's life was not a one-off; on November 3, AQAP members killed three senior Yemeni security officials in an ambush in Hadhramaut Governorate. In addition, the group's own literature makes it clear that AQAP is making a concerted effort to incorporate assassinations as a staple of its modus operandi.

The issue of AQAP's Sada Al-Malahim magazine is largely dedicated to the topic of assassinations. Among the articles addressing the topic are the lead editorial, an essay by the group's commander Al-Wuhayshi, an essay on the shari'a laws of assassination by Sheikh 'Adil Al-'Abab, and a reprint of an article on the topic by 'Abdallah 'Azzam, in addition to several articles in praise of Abu Al-Khayr, Muhammad bin Naif's would-be assassin. To this end, AQAP is also trying to expand its intelligence database through crowd sourcing; the magazine includes an appeal to readers to send in information they have collected on political, military, and security officials and on Western military targets.

The following are excerpts from the latest issue of Sada Al-Malahim:

The Materials Needed to Manufacture Explosives "Are in Your Mother's Kitchen"

In his article, Al-Wuhayshi compares Abu Al-Khayr, Muhammad bin Naif's would-be assassin, to a number of the prophet Muhammad's companions and to President Sadat's assassin Khalid Al-Islambuli, and then urges others to follow in their footsteps:

"This is an easy matter, for Allah has opened a way for you to trouble the tyrants' sleep and to make the infidel nations tremble. After Abu Al-Khayr, there is no excuse not to do this; he showed you the right path, and the proof has been made evident.

"It requires no great effort on your part, nor large sums, to manufacture 10 grams, more or less, of explosives. Do not search long for the materials, since they are in your mother's kitchen and are ready at hand, in whatever city you are in. Then you will accomplish what Abu Al-Khayr accomplished, may Allah have mercy on him."

Al-Wuhayshi Calls for Lone Wolf Attacks on Western Airports, Airplanes, and Subways

"Make the explosives into a bomb that you can throw, set off with a timer, explode by remote, or make them into an explosives belt; or you can put them in any electronic device, like a digital recorder in which you hear the tunes of explosions, or in a photo album, a folder, or an envelope. Explode them on any taghut,[21] spy nest, Emir, minister, or Crusader, wherever you find them. Likewise, [you should explode them] in the airports of Western Crusader countries that have taken part in the war against the Muslims, or in their planes, or their residential blocks, or in their subways, and so on. There is always a stratagem [to be found] if you think and rely on Allah, and have no fear of it being discovered after you have hidden it well. By the power of Allah, it can not be discovered. Recite invocations of Allah for it…"

Crowdsourcing Intelligence for Assassinations

At the end of his article, Al-Wuhayshi refers the reader to another item in the same issue of Sada Al-Malahim, in which AQAP's military council calls on readers to supply the group with operational information on potential targets. The appeal reads:

"This is an appeal to our brothers in monotheism, to men of zeal and valor. Oppressed Muslims everywhere are awaiting your aid, and are expecting you to take revenge on those who have violated the honor of your Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, and who treat your lives, honor, and property as fair game.

"The mujahideen are expecting you to help them by informing them of any piece of information that will serve Allah's religion and [advance] revenge for the oppressed everywhere. In particular, we want information about the taghuts and the archons of unbelief, that is, the criminal heads of state [in Muslim countries] and their helpers, and likewise information about the Jews and the Crusaders.

"The information should be as follows:

"1. The target's location.

"2. The enemies' itineraries, especially those of the Crusaders – how they enter and exit their bases, who works with them, where and how they move around. Include the exact coordinates of their installations and their land and naval bases. If you can videotape and document the surveillance, all the better.

"3. Times when the target is to be found [at the location] and when he moves around, and other information important in this matter.

"4. Surveillance of the corrupt Emirs and ministers – where they can be found, what itinerary they take, what nightclubs they go to, and where they go for walks and on vacation.

"5. Make up lists of the names of the corrupt – intelligence, political security, and national security officers; spies; and hypocrite journalists who despise Islam and the Muslims. And [include] surveillance of their movements...

"For our part, we will make contact with anyone who wants to wage jihad with us, and we will guide him to a suitable means to kill the collaborators and the archons of unbelief – even in his bedroom or workplace.

"Anyone who wants to give support to [AQAP's] operational side and to give tithes [to the organization] can contact us through a special email [set up] for this purpose, using the 'Mujahideen Secrets' software[22]and employing the proper security measures…" The article then provides the email address through which AQAP may be contacted and an encryption key, with the advisory that only emails using 'Mujahideen Secrets' will be accepted.

November 2009: Al-Wuhayshi Calls For Attacks With Homemade Bombs In The West[23]

The leader of Al-Qaeda's wing in the Arabian Peninsula has called on militants to attack airports and trains in the West using home-made bombs, according to a Pakistani daily. Al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al-Qaeda's wing in the Arabian Peninsula, urged Al-Qaeda members to make bombs from household materials.

According to a report in the Pakistani daily The Post, the Al-Qaeda leader wrote an article in the jihadist e-magazine Sada al-Malahem, saying: "You do not need to exert great effort or spend a lot of money to make 10 grams of explosives, more or less. Do not spend a long time searching for materials as they already exist in your mother's kitchen."

Al-Wuhayshi added: "Make them [the bombs] in the shape of a bomb you hurl, or detonate through a timer or a remote detonator or a martyrdom-seeker belt or any electrical appliance."

According to the report, he urged the Al-Qaeda followers to use knives or sticks to attack "secular media figures and writers who mock the orders of religion and those who promote and justify (the actions) of infidel rulers." He added, "Knives are a good remedy for some and ... [for others] severe beating until they are confined to bed or lose one of their senses."

January 2009: In Al-Jazeera Interview, Al-Wuhayshi Hints At Future WMD Attacks[24]

On January 26, 2009, the Al-Jazeera TV website posted an interview with Al-Wuhayshi. The prologue states that AQAP operatives Nayef bin Muhammad Al-Qahtani and Abu Sufyan Al-Azdi Sa'id Al-Shihri were likewise present; Al-Shihri is a former Guantanamo detainee who recently appeared together with Al-Wuhayshi in a video.[25]

Why Didn't Al-Qaeda Use Nuclear Weapons In 9/11?

The important exchange in the interview with Al-Wuhayshi comes at the end. Interviewer Abdelela Haidar Shayie asks: "If Al-Qaeda possesses nuclear weapons or [other] deterrent weapons, why didn't it use them in the September 11 attacks?" Al-Wuhayshi answers: "This was a first message; perhaps with many messages they will take heed." The interviewer interrupts: "By 'many messages' you mean when [Al-Qaeda] struck America with civilian planes?" Al-Wuhayshi answers: "Yes, and this blessed operation was a message to the American people. But this is a people that generally understands only after the message has been repeated."

Abu Basir Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, with reporter Abdelela Haidar Shayie (

AQAP Sent Fighters to Gaza – And Hamas Expelled Them

In the interview, Al-Wuhayshi outlines his view of Yemen's role in the global jihad. Based on a hadith, he says, Yemen is meant to be a rear support base for the jihad in other areas. (Actually, it is the interviewer who first alludes to this hadith, but Al-Wuhayshi returns to the topic throughout the interview). He accuses Yemeni President 'Ali 'Abdallah Salih of colluding with the Zionists and Crusaders and of turning Yemen from a base of support to a contested land of war; thus, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula needs to overthrow the regime so that it may be a base of support for the other jihads, as it is meant to be. This is also Al-Wuhayshi's explanation for why AQAP is not focusing on Palestine or on overthrowing the regime of a neighboring country. Al-Wuhayshi adds that AQAP has in the past sent aid (meaning mujahideen) to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. He adds that fighters were also sent to Gaza, but that Hamas expelled them.

We Don't Kill American Muslims Simply Because They Are Americans

Al-Wuhayshi raises a number of interesting points in his discussion of the group's modus operandi and the Islamic legal justifications for it. For instance, he says that a Yemeni-American killed in the group's attack on the U.S. Embassy was collateral damage, and that it would not have been justified to purposefully attack her just for being American. This seems to contradict the position taken by Ayman Al-Zawahiri in his Treatise Exonerating the Nation of the Pen and the Sword, in which he tries to prove that holding American citizenship is an act of apostasy.[26] On the other hand, Al-Wuhayshi justifies any and all attacks against American or European tourists in Yemen, saying that none of them are really tourists, but rather spies or other kinds of collaborators with the Zionists and Crusaders.

Al-Washishi also justifies attacks on Yemen's oil installations, saying that the oil goes to support the Zionist-Crusader war, and the money from its sale goes to the regime, not to the Muslims. He claims that when carrying out such attacks, Al-Qaeda tries not to harm the Yemeni workers, who are considered Muslims. According to Al-Wuhayshi, the 2006 attack on the Safar oil refineries was carried out on orders from Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, who is mentioned admiringly at a number of other points in the interview as well.

Iran's Master Plan

Asked why he devotes all his energy to attacking the Zionists and Crusaders and ignores Iran, Al-Wuhayshi answers that Iran is in fact a great danger. He produces the usual litany of Sunni religious objections to Shi'ite doctrines, "behind which they [the Shi'ites] hide in order to wage war on Allah and His prophet." In addition, he says that Iran is trying to regain the Persian Empire, which fell to the mujihadeen during the era of the second Caliph, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, and that their plans extend "from Basra to Sada, by way of Lebanon and Palestine." He adds that the only reason the Iranians extend aid to Hamas is in order to ensnare them in this Persian expansionist project.

January 2009: AQAP Releases First Video With Al-Wuhayshi[27]

On January 23, 2009 the Islamist website Al-Faluja posted a video message from AQAP. The video consists of messages delivered by four commanders in the organization, two of whom were formerly prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In their messages the commanders urged Muslims to assist the Palestinians in Gaza, called for attacks on Western interests in order to pressure them to stop aiding Israel, warned imprisoned mujahideen of the Saudi "counseling program to reeducate extremists,"[28] and warned the Saudi regime to stop protecting Western embassies, churches, and military bases.

Referring to the conflict in Gaza, Al-Wuhayshi stated: "It is necessary to proceed from demonstrations to explosions and from civil disobedience to military rage. We must cut off the aid to the Zionist-Crusader military campaign and kill every Crusader in our lands. [We must] destroy all Western interests until Europe and American stop supporting the Jews, halt the killing there [i.e. Gaza] and instruct its collaborators..., the Arab regimes, to open the passageway into Gaza and Palestine."

Fall 2011: Al-Wuhayshi In Issue VII Of Inspire

Describing the operation of Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab in an interview, Al-Wuhayshi said it was "a strong blow to the coffin of the American economy and a slap in the face of the American security apparatus."

Summer 2010: Al-Wuhayshi In Exclusive Interview In Issue I Of Inspire

The first issue of Inspire, dated Summer 2010, included an exclusive interview with Al-Wuhayshi; following are excerpts.

"In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the Ever Merciful. On behalf of the al-Malahem Media Foundation, we would like to present to our readers this interview that is exclusive to the Inspire Magazine with the Amir of the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, Shaykh Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi, may Allah preserve him.

"Q1: Shaykh, the Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is one of the oldest branches of the organization. Can you please give us a brief introduction to its history and objectives?

[Al-Wuhayshi:] "All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Jihad is an obligation from Allah. Young Muslims are brought up into it since the day the Messenger of Allah carried the sword until the last of this nation will fight against the False Messiah. Jihad will continue throughout the generations of Muslims.

"The organization of Al-Qaeda is among these generations of Muslims who are carrying the responsibility of calling to Islam and defending the holy sites, the religion, honor and land since its foundations before three decades. Since 1990 when the Americans occupied the land of revelations, the youth of the Peninsula of Islam are defending their religion, their holy places and their land which their Messenger, peace be upon him, ordered to expel from it the disbelievers. They have executed a few operations against the Americans in and out of the Arabian Peninsula. The most famous are the Ulaya, al-Khobar, East Riyadh, USS Cole, Limburg, and the assassination of US soldiers in the island of Faylakah in Kuwait. The leaders of Al-Qaeda such as Shaykh al-Battar Yusuf al-'Uyairi, 'Abdul 'Aziz al-Miqrin, and Shaykh Abu 'Ali al-Harithi and others led this war against the Americans in and outside of the Arabian Peninsula. We are proud with this legacy not only as Muslims but as freemen too. The organization of AQAP, as our beloved leader Shaykh Usama said: "With America entering into the conflict with the sons of the land of the two holy places, it will forget the terrors of Vietnam. And, by the will of Allah, the upcoming victory in the land of Hijaz and Najd will make America forget the horrors of Vietnam and Beirut, by the permission of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He."

"Our objectives are driving out the occupiers from the Arabian Peninsula and purifying its land from them, establishing the law of shari’ah, the establishment of khilafah, spreading the call to the oneness of Allah, defending against the transgressors and helping the weak.

"Q2: After the last few operations, the media was mentioning that the AQAP is among the most dangerous branches of the organization. Why do you think there is this increased focused on the organization? And how serious is this danger?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, Allah has blessed us with effective operations against the transgressing Americans and we ask Allah to grant us more. The interest that is shown toward AQAP is because of the strategic importance of the Arabian Peninsula. This is the place of the revelation, the birthplace of Islam, the land of the two holy Mosques and the blood of the Sahaba runs through the veins of its sons. Because of the greed of the Americans, they have vital interests in the Arabian Peninsula. The passage ways of commerce pass through its waters and oil is stolen from it. So this place is a vein of life for the Americans.

"Thus they are focuses on it and they do not want any conflicts in this area or any group that would protect the wealth of the Muslims and their religion. They fear that their plots would be foiled and their dreams brought to an end.

"To answer your question on how serious the danger of AQAP is, I say that wherever there are mujahidin, there is danger awaiting the disbelievers. The mujahidin are one body and if one of them is somewhere you would find fear and terror spreading in that place.

"All of the branches of Al-Qaeda have succeeded in powerful operations against the Americans and the latest is the car bomb in New York. The different branches have good competition in fighting the Americans and their allies. All of them want to win the race of destroying the idol (i.e., America) and to have the greatest share in that effort.

"Q3: The first operation for AQAP outside of Yemen targeted Muhammad bin Nayif, the Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense. Why Muhammad bin Nayif? And what are the results of the operations?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] All praise is due to Allah, the targeting of Muhammad bin Nayif was part of our effort o purify the Arabian Peninsula from the traitors. He and his ilk are the ones who allowed the Americans to set base in the Peninsula of Islam, playing the role of Abu Ruqal in its worst forms. He is an American in the clothes of an Arab. If it wasn’t for these traitors, the American airplanes wouldn’t have bombed Iraq and Afghanistan from the airports of Kharj and Riyadh and others, and if wasn’t for them, the Jews wouldn’t have remained in Palestine for more than sixty years.

"So this evil deformed person who is leading the war against the mujahidin, who is plotting against them day and night, and is implementing the American agenda, has led us to target him because of his actions.

"Some of the results of this blessed operation are that is turned the attention of the mujahidin to target the leaders of disbelief and the plotters of evil and that reaching them is not difficult by the will of Allah. This operation broke the legend of the infallibility of their security measures and made it clear that the heroic mujahid – by properly concealing his device, not having any metal parts in it and putting his trust in Allah – can reach to his target without being exposed.

"Q4: Regarding the operation of [Christmas Day bomber] brother 'Umar al-Farouq – may Allah hasten is release – on the Detroit flight, even though the device did not explode, analysts considered that the message intended by the operation has reached its destination. What is the message behind the operation? And what are the fruits of the operation?

"All praise is due to Allah, the operation of 'Umar al-Farouq – may Allah hasten his release – is a strong blow to the coffin of the American economy and is a slap in the face of the American security apparatus. He reached his destination and was able to break through all of the strict security barriers after passing through a few airports and was searched in them. But through the blessing of Allah, all security equipment failed to display his explosive device.

"The message we intended on sending to the Americans is: "America will never enjoy security until we live it in Palestine and it is not fair for you to enjoy life while our brothers in Gaza are going through a difficult life."

"The fruits of the operation are many. Some of which:

·         "Great loss to the US economy which reached $41 billion and all of their security measures have gone with the wind.

·         "The fear which has spread throughout airports and security institutions has revealed to the American people that its security institutions are not to be counted upon.

·         "Delivering fear to the American people and creating a balance in fear and that security is not something that the government of Obama can control

·         "Opening the door for many Muslim youth in the West who want to seek revenge from the Crusader states that are fighting Islam.

"Q5: What does Al-Qaeda want from the West for it to stop targeting it?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] What we want from the West is one thing: To stop aggression and oppression against the Muslim Nation and to withdraw out of its land. This solution was given by all of our leaders and in more than one occasion. The truce was offered by the one who has real authority to take such a decision on behalf of the Muslims, Shaykh Usamah bin Ladin, may Allah preserve him. His offer was refused. Whenever we offered a sound plan, they escalate in their stubbornness so we are left with no option but to defend ourselves and fight the transgressors.

"If the West refrains from attacking us and oppression our Nation, we will refrain from them. Otherwise we will have them drink from the same cup that they have the innocent from our Nation drink from.

"Q6: A few places in Yemen were subjected to American bombings such as Abyan, Shabwa and Ma'arib. The traitor government claimed that they were preemptive strikes against Al-Qaeda. What is the reality of what happened? And did these operations weaken the organization?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] The American culture is that of killing other people. How many have the Americans killed from the Vietnamese, the Japanese, the Iraqi people, the Afghani people, and the Somali people, and how m any have the Zionist allies killed from the sons of Palestine with the support of these bloodthirsty beasts? And finally they a hve killed tens from the tribes of Bakazim, Arhab, and al-Awaliq. They have killed women and children and lied by saying that these were preemptive strikes against Al-Qaeda in order to justify to their people that they have killed the leaders of Al-Qaeda.

"The Yemeni government jumped not to defend its sovereignty and its innocent people but to condemn the oppressed and justify for the Americans their crimes. They marketed the American bombing as a bombing performed by their air force against Al-Qaeda when they knew that the casualties were Bedouins. But it seems as if the Yemeni government has settled some previous scores while the women and children pay the price at the hand of the Americans.

"And what are these accurate operations that have killed tens of children and women? If the pilot was ignorant of military matters he would still be able to tell the difference between tents of Bedouins and military sites, but it is American hate and lust for killing others.

"These bombings will not deliver anything to the Americans and will not weaken the organization by the blessings of Allah. Instead they will only advance us further and push the Muslim people to stand with us. These reckless acts of the Americans will only reveal to the Muslim people the reality of the democracy of murder and destruction.

"Q7: The traitor government media claimed that you have been killed along with your deputy and the military commander. It turned out that the whole claim was a lie. In your view why does the government lie in such a way? And what does that point out to?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] The president of Yemen is a professional liar, especially when it comes to lying in order to extort money. Such lies bring in dollars from the Americans. They are gullible and he is creating for them fake victories.

"As the caller to Islam, Shaykh Anwar al-'Awlaki, may Allah preserve him, said: "The distinctive mark of the Yemeni government is lying. They are lying to their people. They are lying to the outside world. They are lying to everyone." They have been lying for thirty years. They lie against their people in an exposed fashion and this proves to us their inability to defend themselves let alone others and that the matter is out of their hands now. Thus, they have nothing else to do but lie and claim that we have killed so-and-so and imprisoned so-and-so. This is all in order that foreign assistance keeps flowing in.

"Q8: Why does Al-Qaeda insist on operations against the West and especially America?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] All praise is due to Allah. America is the one forcing us to target it. These heinous crimes which the human soul rejects such as the cartoons of the messenger and holding celebrations and awarding those who cruse the Prophet require us to target the Americans. In fact they require us to wipe them out of the map completely. America is a cancer that needs to be removed along with the West that is supporting this criminal behavior and are banning the niqab of the chaste and pure Muslim women.

"Thus, we insist on fighting against this oppression and aggression. This issue now is not fighting for peoples' lives, land or wealth as the obligation has become greater than that. The issue now is the defense of the Prophets and supporting them against these obscene people. For them there is no way out from the Punishment of Allah because Allah will protect his Messengers. Allah protects the believers so wouldn’t he protect His Prophets who are the most beloved to him and are the chosen ones of His creation?

"Allah will give us victory against them and what American awaits in the coming days is greater and worse than what has passed by the will of Allah:

"Allah says: (Say: "Do you await for us except one of the two best things [i.e., martyrdom or victory] while we await for you that Allah will afflict you with punishment form Himself or at our hands? So wait; indeed we, along with you, are waiting) [at-Taubah:52]

"Q9: In the end what is your advice to the Muslims in the West?

"[Al-Wuhayshi:] My advice to my Muslim brothers in the West is to acquire weapons and learn methods of war. They are living in a place where they can cause great harm to the enemy and where they can support the Messenger of Allah.

"There is no meaning in life if the Messenger of Allah is cursed while they listen to and see such crimes being committed in front of their eyes. It is not enough to defend him, may my father and mother be sacrificed for him, to participate in demonstrations and protests because these methods would not stop the West which is already used to them. The successful means are through explosive devices and sacrificing souls. That is a more pronounced and successful way of defending him and this is a practice started by the Taliban of Pakistan, Nidal Hassan, and 'Umar al-Farouq, may Allah release them and on this path are men who are coming to you by the will of Allah.

"O Muslims rise up in defense of your Messenger: a man with his knife, a man with his gun, a man with his rifle, a man with his bomb, by learning how to design explosive devices, by burning down forests and buildings, or by running over them with your cars and trucks. The means of harming them are many so seek assistance from Allah and do not be weak and you will find a way. The rights of the Messenger of Allah among us are great and it is nothing for all of us to die for his sake; make our mothers be bereaved of us if we do not defend him.

"O Muslims you have no excuse in front of Allah except if your fight in defense of his Messenger. If you cannot fight, then you should emigrate from the land where he is being cursed because such a land is awaiting the wrath of Allah. Especially that the Messenger of Allah, discouraged living amongst the disbelievers so how about living at ease amongst them when the Messenger of Allah is being attacked and you do nothing to defend him or leave the land where he is being cursed? What will you answer your lord on the Day of Judgment?

"If you fail to emigrate, then at least boycott the disbelievers and proclaim the oneness of Allah, Wala’ and Bara’ and pray to Allah to make a way out for you.

"May Allah grant us success in giving victory to His religion and His Messenger.

"And all praises and thanks belong to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds."

* Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI.



[1] Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2013.

[7] The meaning of this is somewhat obtuse, but it apparently means that the mujahideen will attempt to strike the same targets that were already hit on 9/11.

[13]taghut is an idol or false god; Salafi jihadis most often use the term as a reference to contemporary rulers of Muslim countries.

[14] Richard Esposito and Brian Ross, "Investigators: Northwest Bomb Plot Planned by Al-Qaeda in Yemen," December 26, 2009.

[21]taghut is an idol or a false god. Salafi jihadis use it most often as an epithet for contemporary rulers of Muslim countries.

[22] "Mujahideen Secrets" is encryption software that was first released in early 2007 by the Global Islamic Media Front, and has since been updated. See MEMRI JTTM reports GIMF Announces Imminent Release of New Software, January 3, 2007 and Al-Ekhlas Announces New Version of 'Mujahideen Secrets' Software, January 14, 2008.

[23] See MEMRI JTTM report Al-Qaeda Calls For Home-Made Bomb Attacks In The West, November 4, 2009.

[25] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2211, Video Message from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Commanders, January 26, 2009.

[26] Al-Zawahiri, Risala fi tabri'at ummat al-qalam w'al-sayf min manqasat tuhmat al-khawar w'al-dh'af, p. 134.

[27] See MEMRI JTTM report Video Message from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, January 25, 2009.

[28]  See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 260, Reeducation of Extremists in Saudi Arabia, January 18, 2006.