Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula urges jihad

Said al-Shihri (January 2009)
Said al-Shihri was released from Guantanamo Bay in November 2007

A Yemen-based offshoot of al-Qaeda has called on Muslims in the region to wage holy war against the US and its allies.

A purported audio statement by Said al-Shihri, deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, warned "American and Crusader interests are everywhere".

"Attack them and eliminate as many enemies as you can," Mr Shihri urged.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has said it was behind a failed bomb attack on a US passenger jet as it flew into Detroit on Christmas Day.

A Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been charged with attempting to blow up the Northwest Airlines Airbus A330.

He has allegedly said AQAP operatives trained him in Yemen, equipped him with a powerful explosive device and told him what to do.

'Glorious invasion'

In an audio message posted on a jihadist website, Mr Shihri praised the "glorious invasion" by Mr Abdulmutallab and said it had been carried out in co-ordination with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

"We repeat what our Sheikh Osama said, that America will not dream of security until we live in security in Palestine," he said, referring to a purported audio statement issued by the Saudi militant leader last month.

Formed in January 2009 by a merger between al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Yemen
Based in eastern Yemen
Led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, a Yemeni former aide to Osama Bin Laden. Deputy leader is Saudi ex-Guantanamo inmate Said al-Shihri
Aims to topple Saudi monarchy and Yemeni government, and establish an Islamic caliphate
Came to prominence with Riyadh bombings in 2003, and 2008 attack on US embassy in Sanaa
Blamed for attempt to blow up US passenger jet in December 2009

Mr Shihri, a Saudi national who was released from the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in November 2007, urged Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula to "prepare and carry your weapons and to defend your religion and yourselves, and to join your mujahideen brothers".

"The Christians, the Jews and the treacherous apostate rulers have pounced on you," he said. "You have no other way out from this plight other than to wage jihad."

He said US forces had killed Yemeni women and children using "spy planes" - an apparent reference to unmanned drones.

Mr Shihri himself was said to have been killed in an air strike by the Yemeni air force in December, a claim AQAP has denied.

Mr Shihri became AQAP deputy leader in January 2009 after it was formed by a merger between two regional al-Qaeda offshoots in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

He said the group aimed to gain control of the strategically important strait of Bab al-Mandab, which connects the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.

Then militants could "close the door and tighten the noose on the Jews, because through [the strait], America brings support to them by the Red Sea", he said.

Mr Shihri's call to arms was addressed to a number of Yemeni tribes including the "Houtha", an apparent reference to members of the minority Shia Zaidi sect who are fighting Yemeni and Saudi troops in the north of the country.

Earlier, a brother of the Houthi rebels' leader denounced the decision by a Yemeni court to sentence him to 15 years in prison in absentia for supporting the insurgency.

Yahya al-Houthi, who lives in Germany and has acted as a spokesman for the rebels, said the verdict was illegitimate and political.

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