Foreign Policy Blogs

Breaking News From Yemen

Several Yemeni papers have reported that at-large al-Qaeda leader Qasim al-Raymi has been spotted at a funeral in Sana’a.   Al-Raymi, according to al-Needa, was spotted by an eyewitness in Sana’a beautiful, tangled Old City.   This report is seconded by al-Sahwa (which also has a picture of al-Raymi). 

(Thanks to Greg for his translation skills)

Al-Raymi has been moving up the ranks of al-Qaeda in Yemen since the jailbreak of 2005.   In this, perhaps the most seminal moment of Yemen's struggle with jihadism, 23 suspected terrorists literally tunneled their way out of prison.   The prison experience, combined with the influx of veteran jihadis returning from Iraq, has shaped what some (including this author) are calling the second generation of al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Here, from al-Arabiyya, is a powerful graphic depicting what the prison break almost assuredly looked like.

Breaking News From Yemen

For a bit more on al-Raymi, here is from Greg's description of the escapees.

Qasim Yahya Mahdi al-Raymi (b. 1977): Al-Raymi is from Sanaa, and was also known by the kunya Abu Hurayrah al-San’ani. His younger brother, Faris, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, was killed in mysterious circumstances in Sanaa in June 2007 after leaving his house in the company of Zakariya al-Yafa’i, another escapee. Another brother, Ali, is listed as being in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Raymi was arrested in connection with a series of explosions in the al-Qadasayah district of Sanaa in 2002. He was charged with being part of the cell that was planning to attack five embassies in Sanaa. During his trial in 2004, al-Raymi threatened to cut off the leg of Said al-Akil, the public prosecutor. Al-Akil's house was subsequently attacked with a hand grenade later that week. Al-Raymi was sentenced to five years in prison on August 30, 2004, which was later upheld by a superior court in February 2005.

Al-Raymi appearing like this is somewhat amazing.   It is an incredibly bold move, showing his face in the capital- while Yemeni Political Security isn't the most efficient of its kind in the world, it is far from incompetent.   Al-Raymi was sending some kind of message.  What that message is constitutes the pressing question.

A clue could be in the second issue of an on-line jihadi mag (link not working- will try to fix later), called “Echoes of Battle”.    In it, the Yemeni organization seems to have changed its name from “Al-Qaeda Organization of Jihad in Yemen” to “Al-Qaeda Organization of Jihad in the Southern Arabia Penninsula.”   This is somewhat bolder, both more atavistic and future-looking (similar to many of al-Qaeda's goals).   It would appear that as the al-Raymi and his contemporaries wage their internecine battle against the older generation, they are also expanding their goals and their reach.   Much like al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, they no longer present themselves as merely a national movement.   It is also worth noting that the first issue of “Echoes of Battles” directly presaged an attack on foriegn tourists.  We’ll see if this is their calling card, or if that was just a coincidence.

(apologies for the narcissistic links today)



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.