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The rebranding of Al Qaeda!

Interesting article: "Al Qaeda Rebranding Itself to Improve Image, Arab Diplomat Says" by FOX NEWS / DC published Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

An interesting article discussed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is rebranding itself to try to lose the negative "baggage" associated with the larger terror organization's identity. AQAP is increasingly going by the name "Ansar al Sharia," which means Army of Islamic Law. So why are they suddenly moving away from the al Qaeda name?


According to an unnamed Arab Diplomat, Yemeni-based group (AQAP) is trying to attract more foreign fighters to its cause and is changing it's name because their leadership thinks that the name (al Qaeda) seems to have negative connotations and baggage. The rebranding of AQAP is seen as an effort to create "a big tent" to attract foreign jihadists and give it a greater air of legitimacy as a political movement. It seems that after Bin Ladens death, the number of fighters traveling to Pakistan has dropped, but the number heading to Yemen is rising. A senior Yemeni official with access to the intelligence said the number of foreign fighters in Yemen now exceeds 1,000. If accurate, that is more than four times the number of al Qaeda members believed to be in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Much of southern Yemen is under control of AQAP, whose leader, Nasir al Wuhayshi, served as bin Laden's personal secretary. Wuhayshi was reportedly killed in August 2011, but multiple foreign outlets monitored by U.S. organizations deny that he is dead. Wuhayshi is believed to be the creator of Ansar al Sharia and a top voice contending to lead the global network. An al Qaeda member in Yemen told Los Angeles times that "Youths from almost all parts of Yemen are arriving in Abyan to join in the fight," said the man, who identified himself as Abed Rabbo Abed. "They call themselves Ansar al Sharia, or Supporters of Islamic Law", he said. The militants claim to control a mountain town north of Zinjibar, and a small stretch of coastal highway leading into the city. "Ansar al Sharia has set up checkpoints through the entire coastal road," Abed said. Adil al-'Abab (head of AQAP's shariah council), stated in late April: "The name Ansar al-Shariah is what we use to introduce ourselves in areas where we work to tell people about our work and goals, and that we are on the path of Allah." According to, Dr. Saeed al-Jamhi, a researcher specializing in al-Qaeda affairs and president of Al-Jamhi Centre for Studies and Research, Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Sharia) is indeed a terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda and "it is an armed group operating under a local cover. It took on that name in May when it declared that it was in control of Zinjibar". Al-Jamhi added, "the al-Qaeda name conjures up terror and signifies violence and destruction. The organization was compelled to hatch groups that operate under local religious-oriented names to persuade others to support them and move from under the spotlight that is cast on them as terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda." Al-Jamhi said that by changing its name to Ansar al-Sharia, the Yemeni group hopes to have an easier path to achieving its objectives and limit the opposition to al-Qaeda in Arab and Islamic countries that reject its methods. He described the change as a "tactical and psychological shift" adding that the new label "carries an appealing connotation in Yemen's tribal society which holds religion as indisputable". Al-Jamhi cited Qassem al-Rimi, nicknamed "Abu Huraira," a leader in the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who announced last year the imminent formation of the Islamic Aden-Abyan army. Al-Jamhi said, "This is evidence of Ansar al-Sharia's presence, which wants to launch its operations from Abyan upon seizing control of it."  Al-Jamhi said a connection between Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda was confirmed in a July 18th report in INSPIRE, al-Qaeda's online magazine. The report detailed members killed in clashes with the 25 Mika Brigade in Zinjibar. He said that report motivated the tribes to mobilize their forces to fight al-Qaeda in Abyan. Al-Qaeda countered by issuing a statement warning tribesmen about being "lured into a criminal scheme by the authorities to set the two sides against each other". Dr. Saeed Abdel Mumin al-Ariqi, a researcher of Islamist groups, stated that bin Laden's death, the delay in choosing a successor, and leaks that Anwar al-Awlaki, leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was the strongest candidate to replace bin Laden, had hampered the operations of al-Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate. He said that changing the name to Ansar al-Sharia gives it some autonomy to commence operations to build a state under an official cover and take control of a ready infrastructure including weapons. Al-Ariqi said the group has set its sights on further expansion by capitalizing on "the extreme weakness of the central government in Sanaa and local governments in Abyan and Aden", as well as the public's distrust of corrupt authorities and "their intense passion and affinity to religion." U.S. and Yemeni officials worry that a loss of government control in the south could further destabilize this strategic Middle Eastern nation, already gripped by political paralysis, violent conflicts and fears of collapse. The takeover of Zinjibar underscores the growing aggressiveness and confidence of AQAP, which appears to be taking advantage of political turmoil triggered by the populist rebellion seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The crisis has further deepened since Saleh was severely wounded in a June 3 assault on his presidential palace, forcing him to fly to neighboring Saudi Arabia for treatment and raising doubts about his ability to rule. U.S. State Department and intelligence officials have worried that AQAP will exploit the worsening security situation in Yemen, and American officials have closely tracked the fighting in Zinjibar as a possible early test of the group’s strength in the region. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said AQAP’s sizable presence puts the country on a different tier compared with other nations hit by political unrest. Yemen’s rugged south has long provided a hiding place for AQAP militants, who are shielded by sympathetic, anti-regime tribes and impenetrable mountains. One of the group’s top leaders, radical Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, whom the Obama administration has targeted for assassination, is thought to be in the south. In Zinjibar, residents said government buildings and stores are shut down; many were destroyed by the shelling and airstrikes. Government officials and other sources of authority reportedly have fled. With al Qaeda rebranding itself and Yemen in a state of flux, the future of Yemen is unknown and what will rise from this chaos will not one that the west will be happy about.


References:
http://bigthink.com/ideas/38813?page=all
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/09/world/la-fg-yemen-qaeda-20110609
http://al-shorfa.com/cocoon/meii/xhtml/en_GB/features/meii/features/main/2011/08/03/feature-01
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/militants-linked-to-al-qaeda-emboldened-in-yemen/2011/06/12/AG88nISH_story.html

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