Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Leader biographies
Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special operatives in a May 2011 covert operation. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is sitting in a cell in Guantanamo Bay. American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by an airstrike in Yemen on September 30, 2011. But al Qaeda has a deep pool of leaders still active in Yemen. The following individuals are the face of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Nasser al Wahayshi
Also known as Abu Basir, Nasser al Wahayshi is the senior leader of AQAP and once served as Osama bin Laden's personal assistant. He fled to Iran after fighting in the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. Wahayshi was arrested in Iran in early 2002 and was extradited to Yemen in 2003 with eight others. He broke out of a maximum security prison with 23 other militants in February 2006 in Yemen's capital city of Sana'a. Though he wasn't officially recognized as al Qaeda in Yemen's leader until June 21, 2007, Wahayshi was likely serving as the head by mid-2006. Wahayshi oversaw the January 2009 merger of al Qaeda's operations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia and has since led the group's efforts to destabilize the Yemeni and Saudi governments. In February 2009, Saudi Arabia added him to its 85 most wanted terrorists list. Wahayshi was designated as a specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) on January 19, 2010.
Said al Shihri
Also known as Abu Sufyan al Azdi, Said al Shihri is the deputy leader of AQAP. He was captured in Pakistan in December 2001 and was later sent to Guantanamo (#372). On November 9, 2007, Shihri was transferred to Saudi Arabia's terrorist rehabilitation facility. He is believed to have coordinated the September 2008 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a. In January 2009, Shihri became the deputy leader of AQAP and on May 27, 2009, the Defense Intelligence Agency listed him as "re-engaged in terrorism." In February 2009, Saudi Arabia added him to its 85 most wanted terrorists list. On September 27, 2009, Shihri released a statement calling for donations to AQAP. Shihri was designated as an SDGT by the U.S. on January 19, 2010.
Qasim al Raymi
Also known as Abu Hurayrah, Qasim al Raymi is the military commander of AQAP. Raymi was arrested in 2002 and sent to a maximum security prison in Yemen for allegedly planning a suicide bombing that year against a French supertanker in the Arabian Sea. He was one of the al Qaeda suspects to escape in the February 2006 prison break, which is when he became the deputy leader of al Qaeda in Yemen. In a June 21, 2007 audio statement he announced al Qaeda in Yemen's reestablishment and named Wahayshi as the leader. Raymi is believed to have masterminded the July 2, 2007 suicide car bomb that killed eight Spanish tourists in the Ma'rib province. He appeared in the January 2009 video announcing the establishment of AQAP. In February 2009, Saudi Arabia added him to its 85 most wanted terrorists list. Raymi was designated as an SDGT by the U.S. on January 19, 2010.
Ibrahim Suleiman al Rubaish
Ibrahim Suleiman al Rubaish is a Saudi cleric who serves as the spiritual leader for AQAP and is a former Guantanamo detainee (#192). Rubaish trained at the al Farouq camp in Afghanistan and fought in Tora Bora. He was captured near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in late 2001 and was then handed over to American authorities. He was later transferred from Guantanamo to the Saudi Arabian terrorist rehabilitation program on December 13, 2006. Rubaish managed to escape across the Saudi-Yemeni border and re-connected with al Qaeda. In February 2009, Saudi Arabia added him to its 85 most wanted terrorists list.
Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri
Also known as Abu Saleh, Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri is the main explosives expert and primary bomb-maker for AQAP. Asiri is originally from Saudi Arabia, where he was imprisoned for attempting to join the Islamist insurgency in Iraq. He entered Yemen in 2007, when he met Nasser al Wahayshi. In February 2009, Saudi Arabia added him to its 85 most wanted terrorists list. Asiri is credited with crafting the explosive device, worn by his brother, used in the attempted assassination of Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef in August 2009. He is also credited for the construction of the 2009 Christmas day underwear bomb, the October 2010 parcel plots bombs and the May 2012 bomb recovered by intelligence agencies. Asiri was designated as an SDGT on March 24, 2011.