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US officials say 'threat from Al-Qaeda in Yemen even greater after Awlaki's death'

Washington , Sat, 31 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 31 (ANI): The threat from an Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is more today than it was six months ago, despite the death of the group's leader Anwar al-Awlaki, US officials have said.

One official familiar with intelligence in the region said that the AQAP in Yemen is now stronger and better positioned than it was at the time of al-Awlaki's death on September 30 in a CIA drone strike.

"AQAP has been on an upward trajectory," Fox News quoted the official, as saying.

As the AQAP has strengthened its base in southern Yemen, US officials said the 'expanded domestic footprint provides more room and more opportunity to invite operatives from abroad, more recruits to train and continue plotting external attacks'.

According to the report, another US official even characterised the AQAP's expansion since May of 2011 as "a bit of a land grab for them," going as far as to describe how easy it had become for foreign jihadis to join the Al-Qaeda affiliate that has increasingly moved from a covert to an overt organization.

"I could take a flight to Aden and get in a taxi cab and tell them to take me to the AQAP check point and get out where (Al Qaeda's) black flag is flying at the entrance to Zinjibar (another strategic port city in the south) and ask, 'how do I get in on the fun'," the official said.

The trajectory over the next six months to a year was described as concerning given the group's one of the most senior leaders, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was a longtime protege of Osma bin Laden who believed in the "global jihad," combined with deteriorating conditions on the ground.

"I don't know if the word bleak is too dire," the report quoted a US official, as saying.

"But we've used it to refer to the long-term picture because declining resources water and oil, the pressures on society now are much greater when it comes to the pressure that could fragment Yemeni society," the official added. (ANI)

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