Video shows bomber with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders
Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on 2009
The 30-minute video is a compilation celebrating an important clan in central Yemen
A new video released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula confirms the group’s senior leaders were closely involved in the plot to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit five years ago and that American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was among them.
The video, released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s official media arm, shows a short clip of the “underwear” bomber, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, together with both the group’s leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, and al-Awlaki.
CNN is unable to confirm the authenticity of the clip, which is in slow motion and lasts barely five seconds. But Laith Alkhouri of Flashpoint Partners, which monitors jihadist media releases, says it appears to be genuine. A previous al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula video released in June showed AbdulMutallab embracing al-Wuhayshi, who is now deputy to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
AbdulMutallab’s communications and meetings with al-Awlaki were previously known. But this video underlines the extent to which al-Awlaki was by the fall of 2009 closely involved with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s leadership.
AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian student, boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 with a device hidden in his underpants. He was unable to detonate it as the airliner descended to its destination.
The video – some 30 minutes long – is a compilation celebrating an important clan in central Yemen, the Dahab, and specifically three brothers, Nabil, Qa’id and Tariq. They had become prominent supporters of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and formed a friendship with al-Awlaki, who married their sister.
One of the brothers, Qa’id Al Dahab, recruited AbdulMutallab in the Yemeni capital and brought him to the attention of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leadership in autumn 2009, according to Alkhouri.
During AbdulMutallab’s brief trial (which ended abruptly when he changed his plea to guilty), it was disclosed that the Nigerian had told the FBI he had been introduced in Sana’a to an al Qaeda operative named Abu Tarak, who became his principal handler. It seems Abu Tarak may in fact have been one of the Al Dahab brothers.
In late November 2009, Abu Tarak enlisted AbdulMutallab in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s plan to attack an American airliner.
In releasing the video now, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is drawing attention to the role of Dahab family members in its ongoing battles against Houthi militia in Bayda, and trying to rally support in what has become a draining war of attrition.
Battles between al Qaeda fighters and Houthi militia across a wide swath of central Yemen are an almost daily occurrence. Bomb attacks in Ra’da last week killed more than 20 people, including 15 girls on a bus. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was quick to blame the Houthi for the girls’ deaths.
The Houthi, a Shia minority in Yemen, seized control of Sana’a in September and have since pushed into central Yemen. They also control Yemen’s second port, Hodeidah, on the Red Sea.
The video includes a quote from al-Awlaki, who says “The host for this jihad is the clan. In Afghanistan the clan, in Iraq the clan and in Somalia the clan.”
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula needs the support of the tribes in its fight against the Houthis, and has tried to cast the struggle as one between the Sunni tribes and “heretical” Shia for the soul of Islam.
As for the Dahabs, Qa’id was killed last year, purportedly in a drone strike. Tariq brought Sharia law to the town of Ra’da in Bayda in 2012, but was then killed by his half-brother Hizzam, who had objected to al Qaeda’s presence in Ra’da.
The al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula video claims Hizzam killed Tariq “with the support of the Yemeni regime and their masters the Americans.”