Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda (AQ). The group announced its formation in early 2009 and is the result of a union of Al Qaeda in Yemen (AQY) and AQ elements from Saudi Arabia. The group’s goals include the removal of foreign influences from the Arabian Peninsula, the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in place of the existing regimes in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the introduction of sharia law and the liberation of Islamic lands. AQAP has carried out a number of guerrilla-style raids on military and security targets and has frequently used suicide bombings. The group was also responsible for the failed December 25, 2009, attempt to detonate an explosive aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as the plane prepared to land in Detroit and two parcel bombs that were discovered on cargo jets in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates in October 2010.

AQAP is rated as the most lethal AQ affiliate as it can carry out domestic insurgency while still focusing on Western targets. In recent years AQAP was able to capitalize on instability in Yemen, establishing strongholds on the country’s south and east and sometimes taking control of entire villages.

In July 2010, AQAP began publishing its English-language magazine Inspire, which has incited a number of lone actor attacks, provided bomb-making manuals, and called on its followers to ‘destroy America’.

In April 2013, two improvised explosive devices (IED) built using pressure cookers and filled with shrapnel detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people and injuring at least 176 others. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two brothers accused of planting the bombs, reportedly told investigators that he and his older brother Tamerlan learned how to create pressure cooker bombs from AQAP’s Inspire magazine.

Recent Developments

In December 2014, AQAP killed American photojournalist Luke Somers and Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher, as US commandos stormed a village in southern Yemen in an effort to free the hostages. 

On January 7, 2015, two masked gunmen stormed the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. Said and Chérif Kouachi, known to have trained with AQ in Yemen, killed two police officers and ten cartoonists and satirists whose names were called out as they were shot dead. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices when a senior AQAP official stated that AQAP leaders chose the target, planned and financed the operation.

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